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Correspondence and Conversations of Alexis de Tocqueville with Nassau William Senior from 1834-1859, ed. M.C.M. Simpson, in Two Volumes (London: Henry S. King & Co., 1872). Vol. II.
Volume 2 of a two volume collection of journal entries and letters between Tocqueville and Nassau Senior between 1834 and 1859. Vol. 2 contains material from 1851 and 1859.
The text is in the public domain.
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[Thecoup d’état took place on the 2nd, and Mr. Senior reached Paris on the 21st of December.—Ed.]
Paris, December 23, 1851.—I dined with Mrs. Grote, and drank tea with the Tocquevilles.
‘This,’ said Tocqueville, ‘is a new phase in our history. Every previous revolution has been made by a political party. This is the first time that the army has seized France, bound and gagged her, and laid her at the feet of its ruler.’
‘Was not the 18th fructidor,’ I said, ‘almost a parallel case? Then, as now, there was a quarrel between the executive and the legislature. The Directory, like Louis Napoleon, dismissed the ministers, in whom the legislature had confidence, and appointed its own tools in their places, denounced the legislature to the country, and flattered and corrupted the army. The legislature tried the usual tactics of parliamentary opposition, censured the Government, and refused the supplies. The Directory prepared a coup d’état. The legislature tried to obtain a military force, and failed; they planned an impeachment of the Directory, and found the existing law insufficient. They brought forward a new law defining the responsibility of the executive, and the night after they had begun to discuss it, their halls were occupied by a military force, and the members of the opposition were seized in the room in which they had met to denounce the treason of the Directory.’
‘So far,’ he answered, ‘the two events resemble one another. Each was a military attack on the legislature by the executive. But the Directors were the representatives of a party. The Councils and the greater part of the aristocracy, and the bourgeoisie, were Bonapartists; the lower orders were Republican, the army was merely an instrument; it conquered, not for itself, but for the Republican party.
‘The 18th brumaire was nearer to this—for that ended, as this has begun, in a military tyranny. But the 18th brumaire was almost as much a civil as a military revolution. A majority in the Councils was with Bonaparte. Louis Napoleon had not a real friend in the Assembly. All the educated classes supported the 18th brumaire; all the educated classes repudiate the 2nd of December. Bonaparte’s Consular Chair was sustained by all the élite of France. This man cannot obtain a decent supporter. Montalembert, Baroche, and Fould—an Ultramontane, a country lawyer, and a Jewish banker—are his most respectable associates. For a real parallel you must go back 1,800 years.’
I said that some persons, for whose judgment I had the highest respect, seemed to treat it as a contest between two conspirators, the Assembly and the President, and to think the difference between his conduct and theirs to be that he struck first.
‘This,’ said Tocqueville, ‘I utterly deny. He, indeed, began to conspire from November 10, 1848. His direct instructions to Oudinot, and his letter to Ney, only a few months after his election, showed his determination not to submit to Parliamentary Government. Then followed his dismissal of Ministry after Ministry, until he had degraded the office to a clerkship. Then came the semi-regal progress, then the reviews of Satory, the encouragement of treasonable cries, the selection for all the high appointments in the army of Paris of men whose infamous characters fitted them to be tools. Then he publicly insulted the Assembly at Dijon, and at last, in October, we knew that his plans were laid. It was then only that we began to think what were our means of defence, but that was no more a conspiracy than it is a conspiracy in travellers to look for their pistols when they see a band of robbers advancing.
‘M. Baze’s proposition was absurd only because it was impracticable. It was a precaution against immediate danger, but if it had been voted, it could not have been executed. The army had already been so corrupted, that it would have disregarded the orders of the Assembly. I have often talked over our situation with Lamoricière and my other military friends. We saw what was coming as clearly as we now look back to it; but we had no means of preventing it.’
‘But was not your intended law of responsibility,’ I said, ‘an attack on your part?’
‘That law,’ he said, ‘was not ours. It was sent up to us by the Conseil d’État which had been two years and a half employed on it, and ought to have sent it to us much sooner. We thought it dangerous—that is to say, we thought that, though quite right in itself, it would irritate the President, and that in our defenceless state it was unwise to do so. The bureau, therefore, to which it was referred refused to declare it urgent: a proof that it would not have passed with the clauses which, though reasonable, the President thought fit to disapprove. Our conspiracy was that of the lambs against the wolf.
‘Though I have said,’ he continued, ‘that he has been conspiring ever since his election, I do not believe that he intended to strike so soon. His plan was to wait till next March when the fears of May 1852 would be most intense. Two circumstances forced him on more rapidly. One was the candidature of the Prince de Joinville. He thought him the only dangerous competitor. The other was an agitation set on foot by the Legitimists in the Conseils généraux for the repeal of the law of May 31. That law was his moral weapon against the Assembly, and he feared that if he delayed, it might be abolished without him.’
‘And how long,’ I asked, ‘will this tyranny last?’
‘It will last,’ he answered, ‘until it is unpopular with the mass of the people. At present the disapprobation is confined to the educated classes. We cannot bear to be deprived of the power of speaking or of writing. We cannot bear that the fate of France should depend on the selfishness, or the vanity, or the fears, or the caprice of one man, a foreigner by race and by education, and of a set of military ruffians and of infamous civilians, fit only to have formed the staff and the privy council of Catiline. We cannot bear that the people which carried the torch of Liberty through Europe should now be employed in quenching all its lights. But these are not the feelings of the multitude. Their insane fear of Socialism throws them headlong into the arms of despotism. As in Prussia, as in Hungary, as in Austria, as in Italy, so in France, the democrats have served the cause of the absolutists. May 1852 was a spectre constantly swelling as it drew nearer. But now that the weakness of the Red party has been proved, now that 10,000 of those who are supposed to be its most active members are to be sent to die of hunger and marsh fever in Cayenne, the people will regret the price at which their visionary enemy has been put down. Thirty-seven years of liberty have made a free press and free parliamentary discussion necessaries to us. If Louis Napoleon refuses them, he will be execrated as a tyrant. If he grants them, they must destroy him. We always criticise our rulers severely, often unjustly. It is impossible that so rash and wrong-headed a man surrounded, and always wishing to be surrounded, by men whose infamous character is their recommendation to him, should not commit blunders and follies without end. They will be exposed, perhaps exaggerated by the press, and from the tribune. As soon as he is discredited the army will turn against him. It sympathises with the people from which it has recently been separated and to which it is soon to return. It will never support an unpopular despot. I have no fears therefore for the ultimate destinies of my country. It seems to me that the Revolution of the 2nd of December is more dangerous to the rest of Europe than it is to us. That it ought to alarm England much more than France. We shall get rid of Louis Napoleon in a few years, perhaps in a few months, but there is no saying how much mischief he may do in those years, or even in those months, to his neighbours.’
‘Surely,’ said Madame de Tocqueville, ‘he will wish to remain at peace with England.’
‘I am not sure at all of that,’ said Tocqueville. ‘He cannot sit down a mere quiet administrator. He must do something to distract public attention; he must give us a substitute for the political excitement which has amused us during the last forty years. Great social improvements are uncertain, difficult, and slow; but glory may be obtained in a week. A war with England, at its beginning, is always popular. How many thousand volunteers would he have for a “pointe” on London?
‘The best that can happen to you is to be excluded from the councils of the great family of despots. Besides, what is to be done to amuse these 400,000 bayonets, his masters as well as ours? Crosses, promotions, honours, gratuities, are already showered on the army of Paris. It has already received a thing unheard of in our history—the honours and recompenses of a campaign for the butchery on the Boulevards. Will not the other armies demand their share of work and reward? As long as the civil war in the Provinces lasts they may be employed there. But it will soon be over. What is then to be done with them? Are they to be marched on Switzerland, or on Piedmont, or on Belgium? And will England quietly look on?’
Our conversation was here interrupted by the entrance of the Abbé Gioberti, and of Sieur Capponi, a Sicilian.
Paris, December 31, 1851.—I dined with the Tocquevilles and met Mrs. Grote, Rivet, and Corcelle.
‘The gayest time,’ said Tocqueville, ‘that I ever passed was in the Quai d’Orsay. The élite of France in education, in birth, and in talents, particularly in the talents of society, was collected within the walls of that barrack.
‘A long struggle was over, in which our part had not been timidly played; we had done our duty, we had gone through some perils, and we had some to encounter, and we were all in the high spirits which excitement and dangers shared with others, when not too formidable, create. From the courtyard in which we had been penned for a couple of hours, where the Duc de Broglie and I tore our chicken with our hands and teeth, we were transferred to a long sort of gallery, or garret, running along through the higher part of the building, a spare dormitory for the soldiers when the better rooms are filled. Those who chose to take the trouble went below, hired palliasses from the soldiers, and carried them up for themselves. I was too idle and lay on the floor in my cloak. Instead of sleeping we spent the night in shooting from palliasse to palliasse anecdotes, repartees, jokes, and pleasantries. “C’était un feu roulant, une pluie de bons mots.” Things amused us in that state of excitement which sound flat when repeated.
‘I remember Kerrel, a man of great humour, exciting shouts of laughter by exclaiming, with great solemnity, as he looked round on the floor, strewed with mattresses and statesmen, and lighted by a couple of tallow candles, “Voilà donc où en est réduit ce fameux parti de l’ordre.” Those who were kept au secret, deprived of mutual support, were in a very different state of mind; some were depressed, others were enraged. Bédeau was left alone for twenty-four hours; at last a man came and offered him some sugar. He flew at his throat and the poor turnkey ran off, fancying his prisoner was mad.’
We talked of Louis Napoleon’s devotion to the Pope.
‘It is of recent date,’ said Corcelle. ‘In January and February 1849 he was inclined to interfere in support of the Roman Republic against the Austrians. And when in April he resolved to move on Rome, it was not out of any love for the Pope. In fact, the Pope did not then wish for us. He told Corcelle that he hoped to be restored by General Zucchi, who commanded a body of Roman troops in the neighbourhood of Bologna. No one at that time believed the Republican party in Rome to be capable of a serious defence. Probably they would not have made one if they had not admitted Garibaldi and his band two days before we appeared before their gates.’
I mentioned to Tocqueville Beaumont’s opinion that France will again become a republic.
‘I will not venture,’ he answered, ‘to affirm, with respect to any form whatever of government, that we shall never adopt it; but I own that I see no prospect of a French republic within any assignable period. We are, indeed, less opposed to a republic now than we were in 1848. We have found that it does not imply war, or bankruptcy, or tyranny; but we still feel that it is not the government that suits us. This was apparent from the beginning. Louis Napoleon had the merit, or the luck, to discover, what few suspected, the latent Bonapartism of the nation. The 10th of December showed that the memory of the Emperor, vague and indefinite, but therefore the more imposing, still dwelt like an heroic legend in the imaginations of the peasantry. When Louis Napoleon’s violence and folly have destroyed the charm with which he has worked, all eyes will turn, not towards a republic, but to Henri V.’
‘Was much money,’ I asked, ‘spent at his election?’
‘Very little,’ answered Tocqueville. ‘The ex-Duke of Brunswick lent him 300,000 francs on a promise of assistance as soon as he should be able to afford it; and I suppose that we shall have to perform the promise, and to interfere to restore him to his duchy; but that was all that was spent. In fact he had no money of his own, and scarcely anyone, except the Duke, thought well enough of his prospects to lend him any. He used to sit in the Assembly silent and alone, pitied by some members and neglected by all. Silence, indeed, was necessary to his success.’
Paris, January 2nd, 1852.—I dined with Mrs. Grote and drank tea with the Tocquevilles.
‘What is your report,’ they asked, ‘of the President’s reception in Notre Dame. We hear that it was cold.’
‘So,’ I answered, ‘it seemed to me.’
‘I am told,’ said Tocqueville, ‘that it was still colder on his road. He does not shine in public exhibitions. He does not belong to the highest class of hypocrites, who cheat by frankness and cordiality.’
‘Such,’ I said, ‘as Iago. It is a class of villains of which the specimens are not common.’
‘They are common enough with us,’ said Tocqueville. ‘We call them faux bonshommes. H. was an instance. He had passed a longish life with the character of a frank, open-hearted soldier. When he became Minister, the facts which he stated from the tribune appeared often strange, but coming from so honest a man we accepted them. One falsehood, however, after another was exposed, and at last we discovered that H. himself, with all his military bluntness and sincerity, was a most intrepid, unscrupulous liar.
‘What is the explanation,’ he continued, ‘of Kossuth’s reception in England? I can understand enthusiasm for a democrat in America, but what claim had he to the sympathy of aristocratic England?’
‘Our aristocracy,’ I answered, ‘expressed no sympathy, and as to the mayors, and corporations, and public meetings, they looked upon him merely as an oppressed man, the champion of an oppressed country.’
‘I think,’ said Tocqueville, ‘that he has been the most mischievous man in Europe.’
‘More so,’ I said, ‘than Mazzini? More so than Lamartine?’
At this instant Corcelle came in.
‘We are adjusting,’ said Tocqueville, ‘the palm of mischievousness.’
‘I am all for Lamartine,’ answered Corcelle; ‘without him the others would have been powerless.’
‘But,’ I said, ‘if Lamartine had never existed, would not the revolution of 1848 still have occurred?’
‘It would have certainly occurred’ said Tocqueville; ‘that is to say, the oligarchy of Louis Philippe would have come to an end, probably to a violent one, but it would have been something to have delayed it; and it cannot be denied that Lamartine’s eloquence and courage saved us from great dangers during the Provisional Government. Kossuth’s influence was purely mischievous. But for him, Austria might now be a constitutional empire, with Hungary for its most powerful member, a barrier against Russia instead of her slave.’
‘I must put in a word,’ said Corcelle, ‘for Lord Palmerston. If Lamartine produced Kossuth, Lord Palmerston produced Lamartine and Mazzini and Charles Albert—in short, all the incendiaries whose folly and wickedness have ended in producing Louis Napoleon.’
‘Notwithstanding,’ I said, ‘your disapprobation of Kossuth, you joined us in preventing his extradition.’
‘We did,’ answered Tocqueville. ‘It was owing to the influence of Lord Normanby over the President. It was a fine succès de tribune. It gave your Government and ours an occasion to boast of their courage and of their generosity, but a more dangerous experiment was never made. You reckoned on the prudence and forbearance of Austria and Russia. Luckily, Nicholas and Nesselrode are prudent men, and luckily the Turks sent to St. Petersburg Fuad Effendi, an excellent diplomatist, a much better than Lamoricière or Lord Bloomfield. He refused to see either of them, disclaimed their advice or assistance, and addressed himself solely to the justice and generosity of the Emperor. He admitted that Russia was powerful enough to seize the refugees, but implored him not to set such an example, and—he committed nothing to paper. He left nothing, and took away nothing which could wound the pride of Nicholas; and thus he succeeded.
‘Two days after, came a long remonstrance from Lord Palmerston, which Lord Bloomfield was desired to read to Nesselrode, and leave with him. A man of the world, seeing that the thing was done, would have withheld an irritating document. But Bloomfield went with it to Nesselrode. Nesselrode would have nothing to say to it. “Mon Dieu!” he said, “we have given up all our demands; why tease us by trying to prove that we ought not to have made them?” Bloomfield said that his orders were precise. “Lisez donc,” cried Nesselrode, “mais il sera très-ennuyeux.” Before he had got half through Nesselrode interrupted him. “I have heard all this,” he said, “from Lamoricière, only in half the number of words. Cannot you consider it as read?” Bloomfield, however, was inexorable.’
I recurred to a subject on which I had talked to both of them before—the tumult of January 29, 1849.
‘George Sumner,’ I said, ‘assures me that it was a plot, concocted by Faucher and the President, to force the Assembly to fix a day for its dissolution, instead of continuing to sit until it should have completed the Constitution by framing the organic laws which, even on December 2 last, were incomplete. He affirms that it was the model which was followed on December 2; that during the night the Palais Bourbon was surrounded by troops; that the members were allowed to enter, but were informed, not publicly, but one by one, that they were not to be allowed to separate until they had fixed, or agreed to fix, the day of their dissolution; and that under the pressure of military intimidation, the majority, which was opposed to such a dissolution, gave way and consented to the vote, which was actually carried two days after.’
‘No such proposition was made to me,’ said Tocqueville, ‘nor, as far as I know, to anybody else; but I own that I never understood January 29. It is certain that the Palais Bourbon, or at least its avenues, were taken possession of during the night; that there was a vast display of military force, and also of democratic force; that the two bodies remained en face for some time, and that the crowd dispersed under the influence of a cold rain.’
‘I too,’ said Corcelle, ‘disbelieve Sumner’s story. The question as to the time of dissolution depended on only a few votes, and though it is true that it was voted two days after, I never heard that the military demonstration of January 29 accelerated the vote. The explanation which has been made to me is one which I mentioned the other day, namely, that the President complained to Changarnier, who at that time commanded the army of Paris, that due weight seemed not to be given to his 6,000,000 votes, and that the Assembly appeared inclined to consider him a subordinate power, instead of the Chef a’État, to whom, not to the Assembly, the nation had confided its destinies. In short, that the President indicated an intention to make a coup d’etat, and that the troops were assembled by Changarnier for the purpose of resisting it, if attempted, and at all events of intimidating the President by showing him how quickly a force could be collected for the defence of the Assembly.’
Sunday, January 4.—I dined with the Tocquevilles alone. The only guest, Mrs. Grote, who was to have accompanied me, being unwell.
‘So enormous,’ said Tocqueville, ‘are the advantages of Louis Napoleon’s situation, that he may defy any ordinary enemy. He has, however, a most formidable one in himself. He is essentially a copyist. He can originate nothing; his opinions, his theories, his maxims, even his plots, all are borrowed, and from the most dangerous of models—from a man who, though he possessed genius and industry such as are not seen coupled, or indeed single, once in a thousand years, yet ruined himself by the extravagance of his attempts. It would be well for him if he would utterly forget all his uncle’s history. He might then trust to his own sense, and to that of his advisers. It is true that neither the one nor the other would be a good guide, but either would probably lead him into fewer dangers than a blind imitation of what was done fifty years ago by a man very unlike himself, and in a state of society both in France and in the rest of Europe, very unlike that which now exists.’
Lanjuinais and Madame B., a relation of the family, came in.
Lanjuinais had been dining with Kissileff the Russian Minister. Louis Napoleon builds on Russian support, in consequence of the marriage of his cousin, the Prince de Lichtenstein, to the Emperor’s daughter. He calls it an alliance de famille, and his organs the ‘Constitutionnel’ and the ‘Patrie’ announced a fortnight ago that the Emperor had sent to him the Order of St. Andrew, which is given only to members of the Imperial family, and an autograph letter of congratulation on the coup d’état.
Kissileff says that all this is false, that neither Order nor letter has been sent, but he has been trying in vain to get a newspaper to insert a denial. It will be denied, he is told, when the proper moment comes.
‘It is charming,’ said Madame de Tocqueville, ‘to see the Emperor of Russia, like ourselves, forced to see his name usurped without redress.’
Madame B. had just seen a friend who left his country-house, and came to Paris without voting, and told those who consulted him that, in the difficulties of the case, he thought abstaining was the safest course. Immediately after the poll was over the Prefect sent to arrest him for malveillance, and he congratulated himself upon being out of the way.
One of Edward de Tocqueville’s sons came in soon after; his brother, who is about seventeen, does duty as a private, has no servant, and cleans his own horse; and is delighted with his new life. That of our young cavalry officers is somewhat different. He did not hear of the coup d’état till a week after it had happened.
‘Our regiments,’ said Lanjuinais, ‘are a kind of convents. The young men who enter them are as dead to the world, as indifferent to the events which interest the society which they have left, as if they were monks. This is what makes them such fit tools for a despot.’
Thursday, January 8, 1852.—From Sir Henry Ellis’s I went to Tocqueville’s.
‘In this darkness,’ he said, ‘when no one dares to print, and few to speak, though we know generally that atrocious acts of tyranny are perpetrated everyday, it is difficult to ascertain precise facts, so I will give you one. A young man named Hypolite Magin, a gentleman by birth and education, the author of a tragedy eminently successful called “Spartacus,” was arrested on the 2nd of December. His friends were told not to be alarmed, that no harm was intended to him, but rather a kindness; that as his liberal opinions were known, he was shut up to prevent his compromising himself by some rash expression. He was sent to Fort Bicêtre, where the casemates, miserable damp vaults, have been used as a prison, into which about 3,000 political prisoners have been crammed. His friends became uneasy, not only at the sufferings which he must undergo in five weeks of such an imprisonment in such weather as this, but lest his health should be permanently injured. At length they found that he was there no longer: and how do you suppose that his imprisonment has ended? He is at this instant at sea in a convict ship on his way to Cayenne—untried, indeed unaccused—to die of fever, if he escape the horrors of the passage. Who can say how many similar cases there may be in this wholesale transportation? How many of those who are missing and are supposed to have died at the barricades, or on the Boulevards, may be among the transports, reserved for a more lingering death!’
A proclamation to-day from the Prefect de Police orders all persons to erase from their houses the words ‘Liberté,’ ‘Égalité,’ and ‘Fraternité,’ on pain of being proceeded against administrativement.
‘There are,’ said Tocqueville, ‘now three forms of procedure: judiciairement, militairement, and administrativement. Under the first a man is tried before a court of law, and, if his crime be grave, is sentenced to one or two years’ imprisonment. Under the second he is tried before a drumhead court-martial, and shot. Under the third, without any trial at all, he is transported to Cayenne or Algiers.’
I left Paris next day.
Kensington, January 5, 1852.
A private messenger has just offered himself to me, a Mr. Esmeade, who will return in about a fortnight.
The debate on Tuesday night on the Palmerston question was very satisfactory to the Government. Lord John’s speech was very well received—Lord Palmerston’s very ill; and though the constitution of the present Ministry is so decidedly unhealthy that it is dangerous to predict any length of life to it, yet it looks healthier than people expected. It may last out the Session.
The feeling with respect to Louis Napoleon is stronger, and it tends more to unanimity every day. The Orleans confiscation has, I think, almost too much weight given to it. After his other crimes the mere robbery of a single family, ruffian-like as it is, is a slight addition.
I breakfasted with V. yesterday. He assures me that it is false that a demand of twenty millions, or any other pecuniary demand whatever, has been made in Belgium. Nor has anything been said as to the demolition of any fortresses, except those which were agreed to be dismantled in 1832, and which are unimportant.
The feeling of the people in Belgium is excellent.
Mr. Banfield, who has just returned from the Prussian provinces, says the same with respect to them—and Bunsen assures me that his Government will perish rather than give up a foot of ground. I feel better hopes of the preservation of peace.
Thiers and Duvergier de Hauranne are much fêtés, as will be the case with all the exiles.
I have been reading Fiquelmont. He is deeply steeped in all the bêtises of the commercial, or rather the anti-commercial school; and holds that the benefit of commerce consists not, as might have been supposed, in the things which are imported, but in those which are exported.
These follies, however, are not worth reading; but his constitutional theories—his belief, for instance, that Parliamentary Government is the curse of Europe—are curious.
The last number of the ‘Edinburgh Review’ contains an article on Reform well worth reading. It is by Greg. He wrote an admirable article in, I think, the April number, on Alton Locke and the English Socialists, and has also written a book, which I began to-day, on the Creed of Christendom. I have long been anxious to get somebody to do what I have not time to do, to look impartially into the evidences of Christianity, and report the result. This book does it.
Lord Normanby does not return to Paris, as you probably know. No explanation is given, but it is supposed to be in compliance with the President’s wishes.
I have just sent to the press for the ‘Edinburgh Review,’ an article on Tronson du Coudray and the 18th fructidor, which you will see in the April number. The greater part of it was written this time last year at Sorrento.
Gladstone has published a new Neapolitan pamphlet, which I will try to send you. It is said to demolish King Ferdinand.
Kindest regards to Madame de Tocqueville. We hope that you will come to us as soon as it is safe.
N. W. Senior.
P.S. and very private.—I have seen a communication from Schwartzenberg to Russia and Prussia, of the 19th December, the doctrine of which is that Louis Napoleon has done a great service by putting down parliamentaryism. That in many respects he is less dangerous than the Orleans, or elder branch, because they have parliamentary leanings. That no alteration of the existing parties must be permitted—and that an attempt to assume an hereditary crown should be discouraged—but that while it shows no aggressive propensities the policy of the Continent ought to be to countenance him, and isoler l’Angleterre, as a foyer of constitutional, that is to say, anarchical, principles.
Bunsen tells me that in October his King was privately asked whether he was ready to destroy the Prussian Constitution—and that he peremptorily refused.
Look at an article on the personal character of Louis Napoleon in the ‘Times’ of Monday. It is by R——, much built out of my conversation and Z.’s letters.
I have begged Mr. Esmeade to call on you—you will like him. He is a nephew of Sir John Moore.
Kensington, March 19, 1852.
I was very glad to see your hand again—though there is little in French affairs on which liberals can write with pleasure.
Ours are become very interesting. Lord John’s declaration, at the meeting the other day in Chesham Place, that he shall introduce a larger reform, and surround himself with more advanced adherents, and Lord Derby’s, on Monday, that he is opposed to all democratic innovation, appear to me to have changed the position of parties. The question at issue is no longer Free-trade or Protection. Protection is abandoned. It is dead, never to revive. Instead of it we are to fight for Democracy, or Aristocracy. I own that my sympathies are with Aristocracy: I prefer it to either Monarchy or Democracy. I know that it is incident to an aristocratic government that the highest places shall be filled by persons chosen not for their fitness but for their birth and connections, but I am ready to submit to this inconvenience for the sake of its freedom and stability. I had rather have Malmesbury at the Foreign Office, and Lord Derby first Lord of the Treasury, than Nesselrode or Metternich, appointed by a monarch, or Cobden or Bright, whom I suppose we should have under a republic. But above all, I am for the winning horse. If Democracy is to prevail I shall join its ranks, in the hope of making its victory less mischievous.
I wish, however, that the contest had not been forced on. We were very well, before Lord John brought in his Reform Bill, which nobody called for, and I am not at all sure that we shall be as well after it has passed.
As to the immediate prospects of the Ministry, the next three weeks may change much, but it seems probable that they will be forced to dissolve in April, or the beginning of May, that the new Parliament will meet in July, and that they will be turned out about the end of August. And that this time next year we shall be discussing Lord John’s new Reform Bill.
I doubt whether our fears of invasion are exaggerated. At this instant, without doubt, Louis Napoleon is thinking of nothing but the Empire; and is kind to Belgium, and pacific to Switzerland in the hope of our recognition.
But I heard yesterday from Lord Hardinge that 25,000 men are at Cherbourg, and that 25,000 more are going there—and that a large sum is devoted to the navy. We know that he governs en conspirateur, and this is likely to extend to his foreign as well as his civil relations.
I see a great deal of Thiers, who is very agreeable and very triste. ‘L’exil,’ he says, ‘est très-dur.’ Rémusat seems to bear it more patiently. We hear that we are to have Cousin.
What are your studies in the Bibliothèque Royale? I have begun to read Bastide, and intend to make the publication of my lectures on Political Economy my principal literary pursuit. I delivered the last on Monday.
I shall pass the first fifteen days of April in Brussels, with my old friend Count Arrivabene, 7 Boulevard du Régent.
. . . . . .
N. W. Senior.
March 25, 1852.
I send you, my dear Senior, an introduction to Lamoricière. This letter will be short: you know that I do not write at any length by the post.
It will contain nothing but thanks for your long and interesting letter brought by Rivet, who returned delighted with the English in general, and with you in particular.
I see that the disturbed state of politics occasioned by Sir Robert Peel’s policy, is passing away, and that your political world is again dividing itself into the two great sects, one of which tries to narrow, the other to extend, the area of political power—one of which tries to lift you into aristocracy, the other to depress you into democracy.
The political game will be simpler. I can understand better the conservative policy of Lord Derby than the democratic one of Lord John Russell. As the friends of free-trade are more numerous than those of democracy, I think that it would have been easier to attack the Government on its commercial than on its political illiberality.
Then in this great nation, called Europe, similar currents of opinions and feelings prevail, different as may be the institutions and characters of its different populations. We see over the whole continent so general and so irresistible a reaction against democracy, and even against liberty, that I cannot believe that it will stop short on our side of the Channel; and if the Whigs become Radical, I shall not be surprised at the permanence in England of a Tory Government allied to foreign despots.
But I ought not to talk on such matters, for I live at the bottom of a well, seeing nothing, and regretting that it is not sufficiently closed above to prevent my hearing anything. Your visions of 25,000 troops at Cherbourg, to be followed by 25,000 more, are mere phantoms. There is nothing of the kind, and there will be nothing. I speak with knowledge, for I come from Cherbourg. I have been attending an extraordinary meeting of our Conseil général on the subject of a projected railway. My reception touched and delighted me. I was unanimously, and certainly freely, elected president.
. . . . . .
A. de Tocqueville.
Friday evening, April 17, 1852.
My letter is not likely to be a very amusing one, for I begin it on the dullest occasion and in the dullest of towns, namely at Ostend, while waiting for the packet-boat which is to take me to London.
A thousand thanks for your letter to Lamoricière. He was very kind to me, and I hope hereafter, in Paris or in London, to improve the acquaintance.
I saw no other French in Brussels. The most interesting conversation that I had was with the King.
I found him convinced that the decree annexing Belgium to France had been drawn up, and that it was the interference of Nicholas, and his expression of a determination not to suffer the existing temporal limits to be altered, that had occasioned it to be withdrawn. I am happy, however, to think, as you also appear to think, that your great man is now intent on peaceful triumphs.
He would scarcely have created such a mass of speculative activity in France if he intended suddenly to check it by war. I hope that by the time Masters in Chancery are abolished, I shall find France intersected by a network of railroads and run from Paris to Marseilles in a day.
I venture to differ from you as to the probable progress of reaction in England. I see no symptom of it; on the contrary, democracy seems to me to continue its triumphant march without a check. The Protectionists are in power, they take for their leader in the House of Commons a man without birth or connection, merely because he is a good speaker. This could not have been done even ten years ago. They bow to the popular will as to free-trade, and acknowledge that, even if they have a majority in the Houses of Lords and Commons, they will not venture to re-impose a Corn-law if the people do not ask for it. Never was such a homage paid to the world ‘without doors.’
Then Lord John says that he objects to the Ballot, because those who have no votes have a right to know how those who have votes use them.
The example of the Continent will not affect us, or if it do affect us, will rather strengthen our democracy. We are not accustomed to copy, and shall treat the reaction in France, Austria, and Prussia rather as a warning than as a model.
I suspect that Lord John, who, though not, I think, a very wise statesman, is a clever tactician, takes the same view that I do, and has selected Reform for his platform, believing it to be a strong one.
We were delighted with Rivet, and hope that he will soon come again. Lamoricière tells me that he is going to take the waters of Aix-la-Chapelle, but, if his exile continues, will probably come to England next year.
Kindest regards to Madame de Tocqueville.
N. W. Senior.
Kensington, April 30, 1852.
A thousand thanks for your letter. I saw M. de Lamoricière three times, and had a glimpse of Madame de L. who seemed very pleasing. I was delighted with his spirit and intelligence, but understand the criticism that he is soldatesque.
I had a long and very interesting conversation with the King, and saw much of my excellent friends Arrivabene and Quetelet. But after all Brussels is not Paris. I was more than ever struck by the ugliness of the country and the provincialness of the society.
I returned on April 18, sprained my ancle on the 19th, and have been on my back ever since. I have spent the time in looking through Fonfrède, who is a remarkable writer, and makes some remarkable prophecies, in finishing Grote’s ninth and tenth volumes, in reading Kenrick’s ‘Ancient Egypt,’ which is worth studying, and in reading through Horace, whom I find that I understand much better after my Roman experience.
I differ from you as to the chances of reaction in this country. I believe that we are still travelling the road which you have so well mapped out, which leads to democracy. Our extreme gauche, which we call the Manchester School, employs its whole efforts in that direction. It has great energy, activity, and combination. The duties of Parliament and of Government have become so onerous, and the facing our democratic constituencies is so disagreeable, and an idle life of society, literature, art, and travelling has become so pleasant, that our younger aristocracy seem to be giving up politics, and hence you hear the universal complaint that there are no young men of promise in public life.
The House of Commons is full of middle-aged lawyers, merchants, manufacturers, and country-gentlemen, who take to politics late in life, without the early special training which fitted for it the last generation.
I fear that the time may come when to be in the House of Commons may be thought a bore, a somewhat vulgar spouting club, like the Marylebone Vestry, or the City of London Common Council.
I do not know whether Lord Derby has gained much in the last four months, but Lord John has certainly lost. His Reform Bill was a very crude gâchis, without principle, and I think very mischievous. I ventured to say nearly as much to Lord Lansdowne, who sat by my sofa for an hour on Sunday, and he did not take up its defence. Then his opposition to the present Ministry has been factious, and to punish him, he was left the other day in a minority of fifty per cent. People begin now to speculate on the possibility of Lord Derby’s reconstructing his minority on rather a larger basis, and maintaining himself for three or four years; which, in these times, is a good old age for a Minister. One admirable result of these changes is the death of Protection. Those who defended it in opposition are found to abandon it now they are in power. So it has not a friend left.
Pray send me word, by yourself or by Mrs. Grote, when you leave Paris. My vacation begins on May 8, but I shall not move unless I recover the use of my legs, nor then I think, if I find that you will be absent.
Kindest regards to Madame de Tocqueville.
N. W. Senior.
Paris, November 13, 1852.
I am unlucky, my dear Senior, about your letters of introduction. You know how much I have wished and tried to make the acquaintance of Lord and Lady Ashburton, but without success. I should also, I am sure, have had great pleasure in meeting Mr. Greg.
This time I was prevented by ill health.
. . . . . .
Two or three months ago, I wrote to you from the country a letter which was addressed to Kensington. Did you receive it? and if so, why have you not answered it?
I wrote upon politics, but especially I asked you about yourselves, your occupations and projects, some questions to which I was very anxious to have answers. At any rate, do now what you ought to have done then—write to me.
I do not now write about politics, because we do not talk, or at least write about them in France any more than in Naples; besides, such subjects are not suitable to an invalid.
I will only tell you, as important and authentic pieces of information, that the new court ladies have taken to trains and little pages, and that the new courtiers hunt the stag with their master in the Forest of Fontainebleau in dresses of the time of Louis XIV. and cocked hats.
Good-bye! Heaven preserve you from the mistakes which lead to revolutions, and from the revolutions which lead to masquerades. A thousand kind regards.
A. de Tocqueville.
London, December 4, 1852.
Your letter of November 13 is, I think, the first that I have received from you since March.
That which you addressed to me at Kensington, two months ago, did not reach me. I have written to you one or two; I do not know with what success.
I grieve to hear of rheumatism and pleurisy. You say nothing of Madame de Tocqueville, whence I hope that I may infer that she, at least, is well.
We have all been flourishing. We passed the vacation in Wales and Ireland, and brought back a curious journal, which I hope to send or bring to you.
I do not think that I shall venture to Paris at Christmas, though Ellice and Thiers are trying to persuade me. I have too vivid a recollection of the fog, cold, and dirt of last year; but I fully resolve to be with you at Easter—that is, about March 24.
The present Government, with all its want of principle and truth, and with all its want of experience, is doing much better than I expected.
The law reforms are far bolder than any that my friends ever proposed, and the budget, which was brought forward last night, contains more that is good, and less that is bad, than was hoped or feared.
Its worst portion is the abolition of half the malt tax, which leaves all the expense of collection undiminished, besides being a removal of a tax on a luxury which I do not wish to see cheaper. It is probable, however, that the doubling of the house tax will be rejected, in which case Disraeli will probably retain the malt tax, and the budget will sink into a commonplace one.
The removal of certain burdens on navigation and the change in the income tax are thought good, and generally the Government has gained by the budget. I am now inclined to think that it may last for some months longer—perhaps for some years.
In the meantime we are in a state of great prosperity: high wages, great accumulation of capital, low prices of consumable articles, and high prices of stocks and land.
N. W. Senior.
February 27, 1853.
I profit by Sir H. Ellis’s visit to write, not venturing to trust the post.
We are grieved to hear that both you and Madame de Tocqueville have been suffering. We have borne this disagreeable winter better than perhaps we had a right to expect; but still we have suffered.
Mrs. Grote tells me that you rather complain that the English newspapers approve of the marriage; a marriage which you all disapprove.
The fact is that we like the marriage precisely because you dislike it. We are above all things desirous that the present tyranny should end as quickly as possible. It can end only by the general alienation of the French people from the tyrant; and every fault that he commits delights us, because it is a step towards his fall. To say the truth, I wonder that you do not take the same view, and rejoice over his follies as leading to his destruction.
Our new Government is going on well as yet. As the Opposition has turned law reformers, we expect law reform to go on as rapidly as is consistent with the slowly-innovating temper of the English. Large measures respecting charities, education, secondary punishments, and the transfer of land are in preparation, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer is at work on the difficult—I suspect the insoluble—problem of an equitable income tax. I foresee, however, a rock ahead.
This is reform of the constituencies. Lord John Russell, very sillily, promised two years ago a new Reform Bill.
Still more sillily he introduced one last year, and was deservedly turned out for it.
Still more sillily the present Government has accepted his responsibility, and is pledged to bring in a measure of reform next year.
I have been trying to persuade them to pave the way by a Commission of Inquiry, being certain that the facts on which we ought to agitate are imperfectly known. But Lord John is unfavourable, and the other Ministers do not venture to control the leader of the House of Commons. There will, therefore, be no previous inquiry; at least only the indirect one which the Government can make for itself. The measure will be concocted in secrecy, will be found open to unforeseen objections; it will be thrown out in the House, and will excite no enthusiasm in the country. If the Government dissolve, the new Parliament will probably be still more opposed to it than the present Parliament will be; and the Government, being beaten again, will resign.
Such is my prophecy.
Prenez en acte, and we will talk it over in May 1854.
I hope to be in Paris either for the Easter or for the Whitsun vacation—that is, either about the 24th of March or the 5th of May next—and I trust to find you and Madame de Tocqueville, if not quite flourishing, at least quite convalescent.
N. W. Senior.
Paris, May 9, 1853.—I drank tea with the Tocquevilles. Neither of them is well.
In February they were caught, on their journey from Tocqueville to Paris, by the bitter weather of the beginning of that month. It produced rheumatism and then pleurisy with him, and inflammation of the bowels with her; and both are still suffering from the effects either of the disorder or of the remedies.
In the summer Paris will be too hot and Tocqueville too damp. So they have taken a small house at St. Cyr, about a mile from Tours, where they hope for a tolerable climate, easy access to Paris, and the use of the fine library of the cathedral. He entered eagerly on the Eastern question, and agreed on all points with Faucher; admitted the folly and rashness of the French, but deplored the over-caution which had led us to refuse interference, at least effectual interference, and to allow Turkey to sink into virtual subservience to Russia.
Paris, Tuesday, May 17.—Tocqueville and I stood on my balcony, and looked along the Rue de Rivoli and the Place de la Concorde, swarming with equipages, and on the well-dressed crowds in the gardens below. From the height in which we were placed all those apparently small objects, in incessant movement, looked like a gigantic ant-hill disturbed.
‘I never,’ said Tocqueville, ‘have known Paris so animated or apparently so prosperous. Much is to be attributed to the saving of the four previous years. The parsimony of the Parisians ended in 1850; but the parsimony of the provinces, always great, and in unsettled times carried to actual avarice, lasted during the whole of the Republic. Commercial persons tell me that the arrival of capital which comes up for investment from the provinces deranges all their calculations. It is like the sudden burst of vegetation which you have seen during the last week. We have passed suddenly from winter to summer.
‘I own,’ he continued, ‘that it fills me with alarm. Among the innumerable schemes that are afloat, some must be ill-founded, some must be swelled beyond their proper dimensions, and some may be mere swindles. The city of Paris and the Government are spending 150,000,000l. in building in Paris. This is almost as much as the fortifications cost. It has always been said, and I believe with truth, that the revolutionary army of 1848 was mainly recruited from the 40,000 additional workmen whom the fortifications attracted from the country, and left without employment when they were finished. When this enormous extra-expenditure is over, when the Louvre, and the new rue de Rivoli, and the Halles, and the street that is to run from the Hôtel de Ville to the northern boundary of Paris, are completed—that is to say, when a city has been built out of public money in two or three years—what will become of the mass of discharged workmen?
‘What will become of those on the railways if they are suddenly stopped, as yours were in 1846? What will be the shock if the Crédit Foncier or the Crédit Mobilier fail, after having borrowed each its milliard? Everything seems to me to be preparing for one of your panics, and the Government has so identified itself with the state of prosperity and state of credit of the country that a panic must produce a revolution. The Government claims the merit of all that is good, and of course is held responsible for all that is bad. If we were to have a bad harvest, it would be laid to the charge of the Emperor.
‘Of course,’ he continued, ‘I do not desire the perpetuation of the present tyranny. Its duration as a dynasty I believe to be absolutely impossible, except in one improbable contingency—a successful war.
‘But though, I repeat, I do not desire or expect the permanence of the Empire, I do not wish for its immediate destruction, before we are prepared with a substitute. The agents which are undermining it are sufficiently powerful and sufficiently active to occasion its fall quite as soon as we ought to wish for that fall.’
‘And what,’ I said, ‘are those agents?’
‘The principal agents,’ he answered, ‘are violence in the provinces and corruption in Paris. Since the first outbreak there has not been much violence in Paris. You must have observed that freedom of speech is universal. In every private society, and even in every café, hatred or contempt of the Government are the main topics of conversation. We are too numerous to be attacked. But in the provinces you will find perfect silence. Anyone who whispers a word against the Emperor may be imprisoned, or perhaps transported. The prefects are empowered by one of the decrees made immediately after the coup d’état to dissolve any Conseil communal in which there is the least appearance of disaffection, and to nominate three persons to administer the commune. In many cases this has been done, and I could point out to you several communes governed by the prefect’s nominees who cannot read. In time, of course, tyranny will produce corruption; but it has not yet prevailed extensively in the country, and the cause which now tends to depopularise him there is arbitrary violence exercised against those whom his agents suppose to be their enemies.
‘On the other hand, what is ruining him in Paris is not violence, but corruption.
‘The French are not like the Americans; they have no sympathy with smartness. Nothing so much excites their disgust as friponnerie. The main cause that overthrew Louis Philippe was the belief that he and his were fripons—that the representatives bought the electors, that the Minister bought the representatives, and that the King bought the Minister.
‘Now, no corruption that ever prevailed in the worst periods of Louis XV., nothing that was done by La Pompadour or the Du Barry resembles what is going on now. Duchâtel, whose organs are not over-acute, tells me that he shudders at what is forced on his notice. The perfect absence of publicity, the silence of the press and of the tribune, and even of the bar—for no speeches, except on the most trivial subjects, are allowed to be reported—give full room for conversational exaggeration. Bad as things are, they are made still worse. Now this we cannot bear. It hurts our strongest passion—our vanity. We feel that we are exploités by Persigny, Fould, and Abbattucci, and a swarm of other adventurers. The injury might be tolerated, but not the disgrace.
‘Every Government in France has a tendency to become unpopular as it continues. If you were to go down into the street, and inquire into the politics of the first hundred persons whom you met, you would find some Socialists, some Republicans, some Orleanists, &c., but you would find no Louis Napoleonists. Not a voice would utter his name without some expression of contempt or detestation, but principally of contempt.
‘If then things take their course—if no accident, such as a fever or a pistol-shot, cut him off—public indignation will spread from Paris to the country, his unpopularity will extend from the people to the army, and then the first street riot will be enough to overthrow him.’
‘And what power,’ I said, ‘will start up in his place?’
‘I trust,’ answered Tocqueville, ‘that the reins will be seized by the Senate. Those who have accepted seats in it excuse themselves by saying, “A time may come when we shall be wanted.” Probably the Corps Législatif will join them; and it seems to me clear that the course which such bodies will take must be the proclamation of Henri V.’
‘But what,’ I said, ‘would be the consequences of the pistol-shot or the fever?’
‘The immediate consequence,’ answered Tocqueville, ‘would be the installation of his successor. Jérôme would go to the Tuileries as easily as Charles X. did, but it would precipitate the end. We might bear Louis Napoleon for four or five years, or Jérôme for four or five months.’
‘It has been thought possible,’ I said, ‘that in the event of the Jérôme dynasty being overset by a military revolution, it might be followed by a military usurpation; that Nero might be succeeded by Galba.’
‘That,’ said Tocqueville, ‘is one of the few things which I hold to be impossible. Nero may be followed by another attempt at a Republic, but if any individual is to succeed him it must be a prince. Mere personal distinction, at least such as is within the bounds of real possibility, will not give the sceptre of France. It will be seized by no one who cannot pretend to an hereditary claim.
‘What I fear,’ continued Tocqueville, ‘is that when this man feels the ground crumbling under him, he will try the resource of war. It will be a most dangerous experiment. Defeat, or even the alternation of success and failure, which is the ordinary course of war, would be fatal to him; but brilliant success might, as I have said before, establish him. It would be playing double or quits. He is by nature a gambler. His self-confidence, his reliance, not only on himself, but on his fortune, exceeds even that of his uncle. He believes himself to have a great military genius. He certainly planned war a year ago. I do not believe that he has abandoned it now, though the general feeling of the country forces him to suspend it. That feeling, however, he might overcome; he might so contrive as to appear to be forced into hostilities; and such is the intoxicating effect of military glory, that the Government which would give us that would be pardoned, whatever were its defects or its crimes.
‘It is your business, and that of Belgium, to put yourselves into such a state of defence as to force him to make his spring on Italy. There he can do you little harm. But to us Frenchmen the consequences of war must be calamitous. If we fail, they are national loss and humiliation. If we succeed, they are slavery.’
‘Of course,’ I said, ‘the corruption that infects the civil service must in time extend to the army, and make it less fit for service.’
‘Of course it must,’ answered Tocqueville. ‘It will extend still sooner to the navy. The matériel of a force is more easily injured by jobbing than the personnel. And in the navy the matériel is the principal.
‘Our naval strength has never been in proportion to our naval expenditure, and is likely to be less and less so every year, at least during every year of the règne des fripons.’
Tuesday, May 24.—I breakfasted with Sir Henry Ellis and then went to Tocqueville’s.
I found there an elderly man, who did not remain long.
When he went, Tocqueville said, ‘That is one of our provincial prefects. He has been describing to us the state of public feeling in the South. Contempt for the present Government, he tells us, is spreading there from its headquarters, Paris.
‘If the Corps Législatif is dissolved, he expects the Opposition to obtain a majority in the new House.
‘This,’ continued Tocqueville, ‘is a state of things with which Louis Napoleon is not fit to cope. Opposition makes him furious, particularly Parliamentary opposition. His first impulse will be to go a step further in imitation of his uncle, and abolish the Corps Législatif, as Napoleon did the Tribunat.
‘But nearly half a century of Parliamentary life has made the French of 1853 as different from those of 1803 as the nephew is from his uncle.
‘He will scarcely risk another coup d’état; and the only legal mode of abolishing, or even modifying, the Corps Législatif is by a plébiscite submitted by ballot to universal suffrage.
‘Will he venture on this? And if he do venture, will he succeed? If he fail, will he not sink into a constitutional sovereign, controlled by an Assembly far more unmanageable than we deputies were, as the Ministers are excluded from it?’
‘Will he not rather,’ I said, ‘sink into an exile?’
‘That is my hope,’ said Tocqueville, ‘but I do not expect it quite so soon as Thiers does.’
St. Cyr, July 2, 1853.
I am not going to talk to you, my dear Senior, about the Emperor, or the Empress, or any of the august members of the Imperial Family; nor of the Ministers, nor of any other public functionaries, because I am a well-disposed subject who does not wish that the perusal of his letters should give pain to his Government. I shall write to you upon an historical problem, and discuss with you events which happened five hundred years ago. There could not be a more innocent subject.
I have followed your advice, and I have read, or rather re-read, Blackstone. I studied him twenty years ago. Each time he has made upon me the same impression. Now, as then, I have ventured to consider him (if one may say so without blasphemy) an inferior writer, without liberality of mind or depth of judgment; in short, a commentator and a lawyer, not what we understand by the words jurisconsulte and publiciste. He has, too, in a degree which is sometimes amusing, a mania for admiring all that was done in ancient times, and for attributing to them all that is good in his own. I am inclined to think that, if he had had to write, not on the institutions, but on the products of England, he would have discovered that beer was first made from grapes, and that the hop is a fruit of the vine—rather a degenerate product, it is true, of the wisdom of our ancestors, but as such worthy of respect. It is impossible to imagine an excess more opposite to that of his contemporaries in France, for whom it was enough that a thing was old for it to be bad. But enough of Blackstone; he must make way for what I really want to say to you.
In comparing the feudal institutions in England in the period immediately after the conquest with those of France, you find between them, not only an analogy, but a perfect resemblance, much greater than Blackstone seems to think, or, at any rate, chooses to say. In reality, the system in the two countries is identical. In France, and over the whole Continent, this system produced a caste; in England, an aristocracy. How is it that the word gentleman, which in our language denotes a mere superiority of blood, with you is now used to express a certain social position, and amount of education, independent of birth; so that in two countries the same word, though the sound remains the same, has entirely changed its meaning? When did this revolution take place? How, and through what transitions? Have no books ever treated of this subject in England? Have none of your great writers, philosophers, politicians, or historians, ever noticed this characteristic and pregnant fact, tried to account for it, and to explain it?
If I had the honour of a personal acquaintance with Mr. Macaulay, I should venture to write to ask him these questions. In the excellent history which he is now publishing he alludes to this fact, but he does not try to explain it. And yet, as I have said before, there is none more pregnant, nor containing within it so good an explanation of the difference between the history of England and that of the other feudal nations in Europe. If you should meet Mr. Macaulay, I beg you to ask him, with much respect, to solve these questions for me. But tell me what you yourself think, and if any other eminent writers have treated this subject.
You must think me, my dear friend, very tiresome with all these questions and dissertations; but of what else can I speak? I pass here the life of a Benedictine monk, seeing absolutely no one, and writing whenever I am not walking. I expect this cloistered life to do a great deal of good both to my mind and body. Do not think that in my convent I forget my friends. My wife and I constantly talk of them, and especially of you and of our dear Mrs. Grote. I am reading your MSS., which interest and amuse me extremely. They are my relaxation. I have promised Beaumont to send them to him as soon as I have finished them.
St. Cyr, December 8, 1853.
I must absolutely write to you to-day, my dear Senior. I have long been wishing to do so, but have been deterred by the annoyance I feel at not being able to discuss with you a thousand subjects as interesting to you as they are to me, but which one cannot mention in a letter; for letters are now less secret than ever, and to insist upon writing politics to our friends is equivalent to their not hearing from us at all. But I may, at any rate, without making the police uneasy, assure you of the great pleasure with which we heard that you intended paying us a little visit next month.
There is an excellent hotel at Tours, where you will find good apartments; for the rest, I hope that you will make our house your inn. We are near enough to Tours for me to walk there and back, and we regulate our clocks by the striking of theirs; so you see that it is difficult to be nearer.
I think that it is a capital idea of yours to visit French Africa. The country is curious in itself, also on account of the contrasts afforded by the different populations which spread over the land without ever mixing.
You will find them materials for some of those excellent and interesting articles which you write so well. When you come I shall be able to give you some useful information, for I have devoted much attention to Algiers. I have here a long report which I drew up for the Chamber in 1846, which may give you some valuable ideas, though things have considerably changed since that time.
A. de Tocqueville.
[The following are some more of Mrs. Grote’s interesting notes. She preceded Mr. Senior at St. Cyr.—Ed.]
The notes relating to St. Cyr are memoranda of various conversations which I enjoyed during a stay of some ten days or so at Tours, in February 1854, with Monsieur Alexis de Tocqueville. I occupied an apartment in the hotel at Tours, and on almost every day passed some hours in the company of this interesting friend, who at this time lived at St. Cyr, in a commodious country-house having its garden, &c., which he rented. I drove out to dine there frequently, and M. de Tocqueville walked over on the intervening days and stayed an hour or two at the hotel with me talking incessantly.—H. G.
St. Cyr, February 13, 1854.—The French allow no author to have a claim to the highest rank unless he joins the perfection of style with the instructiveness of his matter. Only four first-rate writers in the eighteenth century—grandsécrivains, comme grands penseurs originaux; these being Montesquieu, Voltaire, J. J. Rousseau, and Buffon. Helvetius not en première ligne, because his forme was not up to the mark. Alexis himself is often hung up for days together, having the thoughts, yet not hitting off the ‘phrases’ in a way to satisfy his critical ear as to style.
Thinks that when a man is capable of originating a belle pensée, he ought to be also capable of clothing that thought in felicitous language.
Thinks that a torpid state of political life is unfavourable to intellectual product in general.
I instanced the case of Louis XIV. as contradicting this. Not admitted by Tocqueville. The civil wars of Louis XIV.’s reign had engendered considerable activity in the minds of the educated class. This activity generated speculation and scientific inquiry in all the departments of human thoughts. Abstract ideas became the field on which thinkers occupied themselves. No practical outlet under despotism, but a certain social fermentation nevertheless existing, and the want of making itself a vent impelled intellectual life and writings. I instanced Louis XV. ‘At least,’ I said, ‘the torpor of political life was become yet more a habit.’ ‘Yes,’ said Alexis, ‘but then there was the principle of discontent very widely diffused, which was the germ of the revolution of 1789. This restless, disaffected state of the national mind gave birth to some new forms of intellectual product, tending to rather more distinct practical results, which filtered down among the middle classes, and became the objects of their desires and projects.’ Rousseau and Voltaire eminently serviceable in leading the public sentiment towards the middle of the eighteenth century.
English writers and statesmen having always enjoyed the power of applying their minds to actual circumstances, and of appealing through a free press and free speech also to the public of their day, have never addressed themselves, as French philosophers did, to the cultivation of abstract speculations and general theories. Here and there a writer has been thrown, by his individual tastes and turn of thought, upon the study of political philosophy; but the Englishman, taken as a public writer, commonly addresses himself to practical legislation rather than to recondite studies or logical analysis and investigation of the relations between mankind and their regulations under authorised powers. Since Lord Bacon there have been few, excepting in our later times Mill, Bentham, and his disciples, who have explored the metaphysics of jurisprudence and moral science in England. Hume dealt in the philosophic treatment of political subjects, but did not work them up into anything like a coherent system. English are not fond of generalities, but get on by their instincts, bit by bit, as need arises.
Alexis thinks that the writers of the period antecedent to the revolution of 1789 were quite as much thrown up by the condition of public sentiment as they were the exciters of it. Nothing comprehensive, in matters of social arrangement, can be effected under a state of things like that of England; so easy there for a peculiar grievance to get heard, so easy for a local or class interest to obtain redress against any form of injustice, that legislation must be ‘patching.’ Next to impossible to reorganise a community without a revolution.
Alexis has been at work for about a year in rummaging amid archives, partly in those of the capital, partly in those of the Touraine. In this last town a complete collection is contained of the records of the old ‘Intendance,’ under which several provinces were governed. Nothing short of a continuous and laborious poring over the details of Government furnished by these invaluable paperasses could possibly enable a student of the past century to frame to himself any clear conception of the working of the social relations and authorities in old France. There exists no such tableau. The manners of the higher classes and their daily life and habits are well portrayed in heaps of memoirs, and even pretty well understood by our contemporaries. But the whole structure of society, in its relations with the authorised agents of supreme power, including the pressure of those secondary obligations arising out of coutumes du pays, is so little understood as to be scarcely available to a general comprehension of the old French world before 1789.
Alexis says that the reason why the great upheaving of that period has never been to this day sufficiently appreciated, never sufficiently explained, is because the actual living hideousness of the social details and relations of that period, seen from the points of view of a penetrating contemporary looker-on, has never yet been depicted in true colours and with minute particulars. After having dived into the social history of that century, as I have stated, his conviction is that it was impossible that the revolution of 1789 should not burst out. Cause and effect were never more irrevocably associated than in this terrible case. Nothing but the compulsory idleness and obscurity into which Alexis has been thrown since December 1851 would have put even him upon the researches in question. Few perhaps could have addressed themselves to the task with such remarkable powers of interpretation, and with such talents for exploring the connection between thought and action as he is endowed with. Also he is singularly exempt from aristocratical prejudices, and quite capable of sympathising with popular feeling, though naturally not partial to democracy.
February 15.—De Tocqueville came down in close carriage and sat an hour and a half by fireside. Weather horrible. Talked of La Marck’s book on Mirabeau; said that the line Mirabeau pursued was perfectly well known to Frenchmen prior to the appearance of La Marck’s book; but that the actual details were of course a new revelation, and highly valued accordingly. Asked what we thought of it in England. I told him the leading impression made by the book was the clear perception of the impossibility of effecting any good or coming to terms in any manner of way of the revolutionary leaders with such a Court. That we also had long suspected Mirabeau of being what he was now proved to have been—a man who, imbued though he was with the spirit of revolutionary action and the conviction of the rightfulness of demanding prodigious changes, yet who would willingly have directed the monarch in a method of warding off the terrible consequences of the storm, and who would, if the Court had confided to his hands the task of conciliating the popular feelings, have perhaps preserved the forms of monarchy while affording the requisite concessions to the national demands. But the Court was so steeped in the old sentiment of divine right, and moreover so distrustful of Mirabeau’s honour and sagacity (the more so as he was insatiable in his pecuniary requisitions), that they would never place their cause frankly in his hands, nor indeed in anyone else’s who was capable of discerning their best interests. Lafayette was regarded as an enemy almost (and was ‘jaloused’ by Mirabeau as being so popular) on account of his popular sympathies. De Tocqueville said that so diffused was the spirit of revolution at the period preceding the convocation of the États-généraux, that the elder Mirabeau, who was a very clever and original-minded man, though strongly tinctured with the old feudal prejudices, nevertheless let the fact be seen in the clearest manner in his own writings. He wrote many tracts on public topics, and De Tocqueville says that the tone in which Mirabeau (père) handles these proves that he was perfectly cognisant of the universal spread of revolutionary opinions, and even in some degree influenced by them in his own person. Mirabeau (the son) was so aware of the absolute necessity of proclaiming himself emancipated from the old feudalities, that, among other extravagances of his conduct, he started as a shopkeeper at Marseilles for some time, by way of fraternizing with the bourgeoisie; affichéing his liberalism. De Tocqueville quoted Napoleon as saying in one of his conversations at St. Helena that he had been a spectator from a window of the scene at the Tuileries, on the famous August 10, 1792, and that it was his conviction (Napoleon’s) that, even at that stage, the revolution might have been averted—at least, the furious character of it might have been turned aside—by judicious modes of negociation on the part of the King’s advisers. De Tocqueville does not concur in Napoleon’s opinion. ‘Cahiers,’ published 1789, contain the whole body of instructions supplied to their respective delegates by the trois états (clergé, noblesse, et Tiers État), on assembling in convocation. Of this entire and voluminous collection (which is deposited in the archives of France) three volumes of extracts are to be bought which were a kind of rédigé of the larger body of documents. In these three volumes De Tocqueville mentioned, one may trace the course of the public sentiment with perfect clearness. Each class demanded a large instalment of constitutional securities; the nobles perhaps demanded the largest amount of all the three. Nothing could be more thoroughgoing than the requisitions which the body of the noblesse charged their delegates to enforce in the Assembly of the États-généraux—‘égalisations des charges (taxation), responsabilité des ministres, indépendance des tribunaux, liberté de la personne, garantie de la propriété contre la couronne,’ a balance-sheet annually of the public expenses and public revenue, and, in fact, all the salient privileges necessary in order to ènfranchise a community weary of despotism. The clergy asked for what they wanted with equal resolution, and the bourgeoisie likewise; but what the nobles were instructed to demand was the boldest of all. We talked of the letters of the writers of the eighteenth century, and of the correspondence of various eminent men and women with David Hume, which Mr. Hill Burton has published in a supplementary volume in addition to those comprised in his life of David Hume, and which I have with me. I said that the works of Hume being freely printed and circulated caused great pleasure to the French men of letters, mingled with envy at the facility enjoyed by the Englishman of publishing anything he chose; the French writers being debarred, owing to the importunity of the clergy with Louis XV., from publishing freely their works in France, and only managing to get themselves printed by employing printers at the Hague, Amsterdam, and other towns beyond the limits of the kingdom. To my surprise, De Tocqueville replied that this disability, so far from proving disadvantageous to the esprits forts of the period, and the encyclopædic school, was a source of gain to them in every respect. Every book or tract which bore the stamp of being printed at the Hague or elsewhere, out of France, was speedily caught up and devoured. It was a passport to success. Everyone knowing that, since it was printed there, it must be of a nature to give offence to the ruling powers, and especially to the priesthood, and as such, all who were imbued with the new opinions were sure to run after books bearing this certificate of merit. De Tocqueville said that the savans of 1760-1789 would not have printed in France, had they been free to do so, at the period immediately preceding the accession of Louis XVI.
Talked of Lafayette: said he was as great as pure, good intentions and noble instincts could make a man; but that he was d’un esprit médiocre, and utterly at a loss how to turn affairs to profit at critical junctures—never knew what was coming, no political foresight. Mistake in putting Louis Philippe on the throne sans garantie in 1830; misled by his own disinterested character to think better of public men than he ought to have done. Great personal integrity shown by Lafayette during the Empire, and under the Restoration: not to be cajoled by any monarch.
February 16.—The current fallacy of Napoleon having made the important alterations in the laws of France. All the eminent new enactments originated in the Constituent Assembly, only that they set to work in such sledgehammer fashion, that the carrying out their work became extremely troublesome and difficult. Too abstract in their notions to estimate difficulties of detail in changing the framework of jurisprudence. De Tocqueville said philosophers must always originate laws, but men used to active practical life ought to undertake to direct the transition from old to new arrangements. The Constituent Assembly did prodigious things in the way of clearing the ground of past abominations. Napoleon had the talent of making their work take effect; understood administrative science, but rendered the centralising principle far too predominant, in the view to consolidate his own power afterwards. France has felt this, to her cost, ever since.
Habit formerly (i.e. 300 years back) as prevalent in France as it is in England of gentlemen of moderate fortune residing wholly or by far the greater part of the year on their estates. They ceased to do so from the time when the sovereign took from them all local authority, from the fifteenth century or so. The French country-houses were excessively thickly dotted over the land even up to the year 1600; quantities pulled down after that period. Country life becoming flat after the gentlemen ceased to be of importance in their political relations with their districts, they gave up rural habits and took to living in the provincial towns.
De Tocqueville had many conversations with M. Royer Collard respecting the events of 1789. Difficult to get much out of men of our period relative to their own early manhood. His own father (now 82) much less capable of communicating details of former régime than might have been supposed. Because, says De Tocqueville, youths of eighteen to twenty hardly ever possess the faculty or the inclination to note social peculiarities. They accept what they find going, and scarcely give a thought to the contemplation of what is familiar to them and of every day’s experience. Royer Collard was a man of superior mind: had a great deal to relate. De Tocqueville used to pump him whenever an opportunity occurred. Knew Danton well, used to discuss political affairs with him. When revolution was fairly launched, saw him occasionally. Danton was venal to the last degree; received money from the Court over and over again; ‘agitated,’ and was again sopped by the agents of Marie Antoinette. When matters grew formidable (in 1791) Royer Collard was himself induced to become an agent or go-between of the Court for buying up Danton. He sought an opportunity, and after some prefatory conversations Royer Collard led Danton to the point. ‘No,’ said Danton, ‘I cannot listen to any such suggestions now. Times are altered. It is too late. ‘Nous le détrônerons et puis nous le tuerons,’ added he in an emphatic tone. Royer Collard of course gave up the hope of succeeding.
Danton’s passion for a young girl, whom he married, became his ruin. While he was honeymooning it by some river’s margin, Robespierre got the upper hand in the Assembly, and caused him to be seized—mis en jugement—and soon afterwards guillotined. The woman did not know, it is affirmed, that it was Danton who set the massacres of 1792 agoing; she thought him a good-hearted man. He set all his personal enemies free out of their prisons prior to the commencement of the massacres; wishing to be able to boast of having spared his enemies, as a proof that he was actuated by no ignoble vengance, but only by a patriotic impulse. He was a low, mean-souled fanatic, who had no clear conception of what he was aiming at, but who delighted in the horrid excitement prevailing around him. It was Tallien who had the chief share in the deposition of Robespierre and the transactions of the 9th thermidor. Madame Tallien was then in prison, and going to be executed in a few days (she was not yet married to Tallien then). She wrote, by stealth of course, a few emphatic words, with a toothpick and soot wetted, to Tallien which nerved him to the conflict, and she was saved. Talleyrand told De Tocqueville she was beyond everything captivating, beautiful, and interesting. She afterwards became the mistress of Barras, and finally married the Prince de Chimay.
De Tocqueville has been at Voré, Helvetius’ château in La Perche—a fine place, and Helvetius lived en seigneur there. A grand-daughter of Helvetius married M. de Rochambeau, uncle, by mother’s side, of Alexis: so that the great-grandchildren are De Tocqueville’s first cousins.
In the ‘Souvenirs’ of M. Berryer (père) he describes the scene of the 9th thermidor, in which he was actively concerned in the interest of the Convention, and saw Robespierre borne past him with his shattered jaw along the Quai Pelletier. Also went to the terrace of the Tuileries gardens to assure himself that Robespierre was really executed the next day; heard the execrations and shouts which attended his last moments, but did not stay to witness them. Release of the Duchess of St. Aignan, under sentence of death, by his father.
February 18.—A. de Tocqueville came to see me, and we walked out for half-an-hour. He said he had now spent over eight months in a seclusion such as he had never experienced in his whole life. That, partly his own debilitated health, partly the impaired state of his wife’s general powers (nervous system inclusive), partly the extreme aversion he felt for public affairs and the topics of the day connected with politics; all these considerations had determined him upon withdrawing himself from society for a certain space, and that to a considerable distance from all his friends and relations. A physician, also of widely extended fame (Dr. Brittonneau), happening to reside close to where they have lodged themselves, formed an additional link in the chain of motives for settling themselves at Tours. M. de Tocqueville had some misgivings at first as to whether, after passing twenty years in active public life, and in the frequent society of men who occupied the most distinguished position in the political world, as well as of others not less eminent in that of letters; whether, he said, the monotony and stillness of his new mode of life would not be too much for his spirits and render his mind indolent and depressed. ‘But,’ said he, ‘I have been agreeably reassured. I have come to regard society as a thing which I can perfectly well do without. I desire nothing better than to occupy myself, as I have been doing, with the composition of a work which I am in hopes will travel over somewhat other than beaten ground. I have found many materials for my purpose in this spot, and the pursuit has got hold of me to a degree which renders intellectual labour a source of pleasure; and I prosecute it steadily, unless when my health is out of order; which, happily, does not occur so frequently since the last three or four months. My wife’s company serves to encourage me in my work, and to cheer me in every respect, since an entire sympathy subsists between us, as you know; we seem to require no addition, and our lives revolve in the most inflexible routine possible. I rise at half-past five, and work seriously till half-past nine; then dress for déjeûner at ten. I commonly walk half-an-hour afterwards, and then set to on some other study—usually of late in the German language—till two p.m., when I go out again and walk for two hours, if weather allows. In the evenings I read to amuse myself, often reading aloud to Madame de Tocqueville, and go to bed at ten p.m. regularly every night.’
‘Sometimes,’ said De Tocqueville, ‘I reflect on the difference which may be discerned between the amount of what a man can effect by even the most strenuous and well-directed efforts, whether as a public servant or as a leading man in political life, and what a writer of impressive books has it in his power to effect. It is true that a man of talent and courage may acquire a creditable position, may exercise great influence over other individuals engaged in the same career, and may enjoy a certain measure of triumphant success in cases where he can put out his strength. At the same time it strikes me that the best of these exaggerates immensely the amount of good which he has been able to effect. I look back upon prodigiously vivid passages in various public men’s lives, in this century, with a melancholy reflection of how little influence their magnificent efforts have really exercised over the march of human affairs. A man is apt to believe he has done great things when his hearers and contemporaries are strongly affected, either by a powerful speech, or an animated address, or an act of opportune courage, or the like. But, if we investigate the positive amount of what the individual has effected in the way of bettering or advancing the general interests of mankind, by personal exertion on the public stage, I regret to say I can find hardly an instance of more than a transient, though beneficial, flash of excitement produced on the public mind. I do not here speak of men invested with great power—princes, prime ministers, popes, generals and the like. Of course they produce lasting traces of their power, whether it be for good or evil; and, indeed, individuals have on their side considerable power to work mischief, though not often to work good. I begin to think that a man not invested with a considerable amount of political power can do but little good by slaving at the oar of independent political action. Now, on the contrary, what a vast effect a writer can produce, when he possesses the requisite knowledge and endowments! In his cabinet, his thoughts collected, his ideas well arranged, he may hope to imprint indelible traces on the line of human progress. What orator, what brilliant patriot at the tribune, could ever effect the extensive fermentation in a whole nation’s sentiments achieved by Voltaire and Jean Jacques?
‘I have certainly seen reason to change some of my views on social facts, as well as some reasonings founded on imperfect observation. But the fond of my opinions can never undergo a change—certain irrevocable maxims and propositions must constitute the basis of thinking minds. How such changes can come about as I have lived to see in some men’s states of opinion is to me incomprehensible. Lafayette was foolish enough to give his support to certain conspiracies—certainly to that of Béfort’s, in Alsace. What folly! to seek to upset a despotism by the agency of the soldiery, in the nineteenth century!’
St. Cyr, Tuesday, February 21, 1854. —On the 20th I left Paris for Le Trésorier, a country-house in the village of St. Cyr, near Tours, which the Tocquevilles have been inhabiting for some months. It stands in a large enclosure of about fifteen acres, of which about ten are orchard and vineyard, and the remainder are occupied by the house, stables, and a large garden. The house has a great deal of accommodation, and they pay for it, imperfectly furnished, 3,000 francs a year, and keep up the garden, which costs about 500 francs more, being one man at one and a-half francs a day.
This is considered dear; but the sheltered position of the house, looking south, and protected by a hill to the north-east, induced the Tocquevilles to pay for it about 1,000 francs more than its market value.
I will throw together the conversations of February 22 and 23. They began by my giving to him a general account of the opinions of my friends in Paris.
‘I believe,’ said Tocqueville, ‘that I should have found out many of your interlocutors without your naming them. I am sure that I should Thiers, Duvergier, Broglie, and Rivet; perhaps Faucher—certainly Cousin. I translate into French what you make them say, and hear them speak. I recognise Dumon and Lavergne, but I should not have discovered them. The conversation of neither of them has the marked, peculiar flavour that distinguishes that of the others. You must recollect, however, that some of your friends knew, and most of the others must have suspected, that you were taking notes. Thiers speaks evidently for the purpose of being reported. To be sure that shows what are the opinions that men wish to be supposed to entertain, and they often betray what they think that they conceal. Still it must be admitted that you had not always the natural man.’ ‘I am sorry,’ he added, ‘that you have not penetrated more into the salons of the Legitimists. You have never got further than a Fusionist. The Legitimists are not the Russians that Thiers describes them. Still less do they desire to see Henri V. restored by foreign intervention. They and their cause have suffered too bitterly for having committed that crime, or that fault, for them to be capable of repeating it. They are anti-national so far as not to rejoice in any victories obtained by France under this man’s guidance. But I cannot believe that they would rejoice in her defeat. They have been so injured in their fortunes and their influence, have been so long an oppressed caste—excluded from power, and even from sympathy—that they have acquired the faults of slaves—have become timid and frivolous, or bitter.
‘They have ceased to be anxious about anything but to be let alone. But they are a large, a rich, and comparatively well-educated body. Your picture is incomplete without them, et il sera toujours très-difficile de gouverner sans eux.
I quite agree,’ he continued, ‘with Thiers as to the necessity of this war. Your interests may be more immediate and greater, but ours are very great. When I say ours, I mean those of France as a country that is resolved to enjoy constitutional government. I am not sure that if Russia were to become mistress of the Continent she would not allow France to continue a quasi-independent despotism under her protectorate. But she will never willingly allow us to lie powerful and free.
‘I sympathise, too, with Thiers’s fears as to the result. I do not believe that Napoleon himself, with all his energy, and all his diligence, and all his intelligence, would have thought it possible to conduct a great war to which his Minister of War was opposed. A man who has no heart in his business will neglect it, or do it imperfectly. His first step would have been to dismiss St.-Arnaud. Then, look at the other two on whose skill and energy we have to depend. One is Ducos, Minister of Marine, a man of mere commonplace talents and character. The other is Binneau, Minister of Finance, somewhat inferior to Ducos. Binneau ought to provide resources. He ought to check the preposterous waste of the Court. He has not intelligence enough to do the one, or courage enough to attempt the other. The real Prime Minister is without doubt Louis Napoleon himself. But he is not a man of business. He does not understand details. He may order certain things to be done, but he will not be able to ascertain whether the proper means have been taken. He does not know indeed what these means are. He does not trust those who do. A war which would have tasked all the powers of Napoleon, and of Napoleon’s Ministers and generals, is to be carried on without any master-mind to direct it, or any good instruments to execute it. I fear some great disaster.
‘Such a disaster might throw,’ he continued, ‘this man from the eminence on which he is balanced, not rooted. It might produce a popular outbreak, of which the anarchical party might take advantage. Or, what is perhaps more to be feared, it might frighten Louis Napoleon into a change of policy. He is quite capable of turning short round—giving up everything—key of the Grotto, protectorate of the orthodox, even the Dardanelles and the Bosphorus—to Nicholas, and asking to be repaid by the Rhine.
‘I cannot escape from the cauchemar that a couple of years hence France and England may be at war. Nicholas’s expectations have been deceived, but his plan was not unskilfully laid. He had a fair right to conjecture that you would think the dangers of this alliance such as to be even greater than those of allowing him to obtain his protectorate.
‘In deciding otherwise, you have taken the brave and the magnanimous course. I hope that it may prove the successful one.
‘I am sorry,’ continued Tocqueville, ‘to see the language of your newspapers as to the fusion. I did not choose to take part in it. I hate to have anything to do with pretenders. But as a mere measure of precaution it is a wise one. It decides what shall be the conduct of the Royalist party in the event—not an improbable one—of France being suddenly left without a ruler.
‘Your unmeasured praise of Louis Napoleon and your unmeasured abuse of the Bourbons are, to a certain degree, the interference in our politics which you professedly disclaim. I admit the anti-English prejudices of the Bourbons, and I admit that they are not likely to be abated by your alliance with a Bonaparte. But the opinions of a constitutional sovereign do not, like those of a despot, decide the conduct of his country. The country is anxious for peace, and, above all, peace with you—for more than peace, for mutual good-feeling. The Bourbons cannot return except with a constitution. It has become the tradition of the family, it is their title to the throne. There is not a vieille marquise in the Faubourg St.-Germain who believes in divine right.
‘The higher classes in France are Bourbonists because they are Constitutionalists, because they believe that constitutional monarchy is the government best suited to France, and that the Bourbons offer us the fairest chance of it.
‘Among the middle classes there is without doubt much inclination for the social equality of a Republic. But they are alarmed at its instability; they have never known one live for more than a year or two, or die except in convulsions.
‘As for the lower classes, the country people think little about politics, the sensible portion of the artizans care about nothing but cheap and regular work; the others are Socialists, and, next to the government of a Rouge Assembly, wish for that of a Rouge despot.’
‘In London,’ I said, ‘a few weeks ago I came across a French Socialist, not indeed of the lower orders—for he was a Professor of Mathematics—but participating in their feelings. “I prefer,” he said, “a Bonaparte to a Bourbon—a Bonaparte must rely on the people, one can always get something out of him.” “What have you got,” I asked, “from this man?” “A great deal,” he answered. “We got the Orleans confiscation—that was a great step. Il portait attente à la propriété. Then he represents the power and majesty of the people. He is like the people, above all law. Les Bourbons nous chicanaient.”’
‘That was the true faith of a Rouge,’ said Tocqueville ‘If this man,’ he added, ‘had any self-control, if he would allow us a very moderate degree of liberty, he might enjoy a reign—probably found a dynasty. He had everything in his favour; the prestige of his name, the acquiescence of Europe, the dread of the Socialists, and the contempt felt for the Republicans. We were tired of Louis Philippe. We remembered the branche aînée only to dislike it, and the Assembly only to despise it. We never shall be loyal subjects, but we might have been discontented ones, with as much moderation as is in our nature.’
‘What is the nuance,’ I said, ‘of G——?’
‘G——,’ answered Tocqueville, ‘is an honest man, uncorrupt and public-spirited; he is a clear, logical, but bitter speaker; his words fall from the tribune like drops of gall. He has great perspicacity, but rather a narrow range. His vision is neither distant nor comprehensive. He wears a pair of blinkers, which allow him to see only what he looks straight at—and that is the English Constitution. For what is to the right and to the left he has no eyes, and unhappily what is to the right and to the left is France.
‘Then he has a strong will, perfect self-reliance, and the most restless activity. All these qualities give him great influence. He led the centre gauche into most of its errors. H——used to say, “If you want to know what I shall do, ask G——.”
‘Among the secondary causes of February 1848 he stands prominent. He planned the banquets. Such demonstrations are safe in England. He inferred, according to his usual mode of reasoning, that they would not be dangerous in France. He forgot that in England there is an aristocracy that leads, and even controls, the people.
‘I am alarmed,’ he continued, ‘by your Reform Bill. Your new six-pound franchise must, I suppose, double the constituencies; it is a further step to universal suffrage, the most fatal and the least remediable of institutions.
‘While you preserve your aristocracy, you will preserve your freedom; if that goes, you will fall into the worst of tyrannies, that of a despot, appointed and controlled, so far as he is controlled at all, by a mob.’
Madame de Tocqueville asked me if I had seen the Empress.
‘No,’ I said, ‘but Mrs. Senior has, and thinks her beautiful.’
‘She is much more so,’ said Madame de Tocqueville, ‘than her portraits. Her face in perfect repose gets long, and there is a little drooping about the corners of the mouth. This has a bad effect when she is serious, as everyone is when sitting for a picture, but disappears as soon as she speaks. I remember dining in company with her at the President’s—I sat next to him—she was nearly opposite, and close to her a lady who was much admired. I said to the President, looking towards Mademoiselle de Montigo, “Really I think that she is far the prettier of the two.” He gazed at her for an instant, and said, “I quite agree with you; she is charming.” It may be a bon ménage.’
‘To come back,’ I said, ‘to our Eastern question. What is Baraguay d’Hilliers?’
‘A brouillon,’ said Tocqueville. ‘He is the most impracticable man in France. His vanity, his ill-temper, and his jealousy make him quarrel with everybody with whom he comes in contact. In the interest of our alliance you should get him recalled.’
‘What sort of man,’ I asked, ‘shall I find General Randon?’
‘Very intelligent,’ said Tocqueville. ‘He was to have had the command of the Roman army when Oudinot gave it up; but, just as he was going, it was discovered that he was a Protestant. He was not so accommodating as one of our generals during the Restoration. He also was a Protestant. The Duc d’Angoulême one day said to him, “Vous êtes protestant, général?” The poor man answered in some alarm, for he knew the Duke’s ultra-Catholicism, “Tout ce que vous voulez, monseigneur.” ’
St. Cyr, March 18, 1854.
Your letter was a real joy to us, my dear Senior. As you consent to be ill lodged, we offer to you with all our hearts the bachelor’s room which you saw. You will find there only a bed, without curtains, and some very shabby furniture. But you will find hosts who will be charmed to have you and your MSS. I beg you not to forget the latter.
My wife, as housekeeper, desires me to give you an important piece of advice. In the provinces, especially during Lent, it is difficult to get good meat on Fridays and Saturdays, and though you are a great sinner, she has no wish to force you to do penance, especially against your will, as that would take away all the merit. She advises you, therefore, to arrange to spend with us Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, and to avoid Friday and Saturday, and especially the whole of the Holy Week.
Now you are provided with the necessary instructions. Choose your own day, and give us twenty-four hours’ warning.
A. de Tocqueville.
St. Cyr, March 31, 1854.
As you are willing to encounter hard meat and river fish, I have no objection to your new plan. I see in it even this advantage, that you will be able to tell us de visu what went on in the Corps Législatif, which will greatly interest us.
The condemnation of Montalembert seems to me to be certain; but I am no less curious to know how that honourable assembly will contrive to condemn a private letter which appeared in a foreign country, and which was probably published without the authorisation and against the will of the writer.
It is a servile trick, which I should like to see played.
Do not hesitate to postpone your visit if the sitting of the Corps Législatif should not take place on Monday.
A. de Tocqueville.
I passed the 3rd and 4th of April in the Corps Législatif listening to the debate on the demand by the Government of permission to prosecute M. de Montalembert, a member of the Corps Législatif, for the publication of a letter to M. Dupin, which it treated as libellous. As it was supposed that M. de Montalembert’s speech would be suppressed, I wrote as much of it as I could carry in my recollection; the only other vehicle—notes—not being allowed to be taken. On the evening of the 5th of April I left Paris for St. Cyr.
St. Cyr, Thursday, April 6, 1854.—I drove with Tocqueville to Chenonceaux, a château of the sixteenth century, about sixteen miles from Tours, on the Cher. I say on the Cher, for such is literally its position. It is a habitable bridge, stretching across the water.
The two first arches, which spring from the right bank of the river, and the piers which form their abutments, are about one hundred feet wide, and support a considerable house. The others support merely a gallery, called by our guide the ballroom of Catherine de Médicis, ending in a small theatre. The view from the windows of the river flowing through wooded meadows is beautiful and peculiar. Every window looks on the river; many rooms, as is the case with the gallery, look both up and down it. It must be a charming summer residence. The rooms still retain the furniture which was put into them by Diane de Poictiers and Catherine de Médicis; very curious and very uncomfortable; high narrow chairs, short sofas, many-footed tables, and diminutive mirrors. The sculptured pilasters, scrolls, bas-reliefs and tracery of the outside are not of fine workmanship, but are graceful and picturesque. The associations are interesting, beginning with Francis I. and ending with Rousseau, who spent there the autumn of 1746, as the guest of Madame Dupin, and wrote a comedy for its little theatre. The present proprietor, the Marquis de Villeneuve, is Madame Dupin’s grandson.
In the evening we read my report of the debate on Montalembert.
‘It is difficult,’ said Tocqueville, ‘to wish that so great a speech had been suppressed. But I am inclined to think that Montalembert’s wiser course was to remain silent. What good will his speech do? It will not be published. Yours is probably the only report of it. So far as the public hears anything of it, the versions coming through an unfavourable medium will be misrepresentations. In a letter which I received from Paris this morning it is called virulent. It was of great importance that the minority against granting the consent should be large, and I have no doubt that this speech diminished it by twenty or thirty. It must have wounded many, frightened many, and afforded a pretext to many. Perhaps, however, it was not in human nature for such a speaker as Montalembert to resist the last opportunity of uttering bold truths in a French Assembly.’
Friday, April 7.—We drove to-day along the Loire to Langrais, about twelve miles below Tours.
Here is a castle of the thirteenth century, consisting of two centre and two corner towers, and a curtain between them, terminating in a rocky promontory. Nothing can be more perfect than the masonry, or more elegant than the few ornaments. The outside is covered with marks of bullets, which appear to have rattled against it with little effect.
On our return we visited the castles of Cinq Mars and Luynes. Langrais, Cinq Mars, and Luynes were all the property of Effiat, Marquis of Cinq Mars, who with De Thou conspired against Richelieu in the latter part of Louis XIII.’s reign, and was beheaded. The towers of Cinq Mars were, in the words of his sentence, ‘rasées à la hauteur de l’infamie,’ and remain now cut down to half their original height. Luynes stands finely, crowning a knoll overlooking the Loire. It is square, with twelve towers, two on each side and four in the corners, and a vast ditch, and must have been strong. Nearly a mile from it are the remains of a Roman aqueduct, of which about thirty piers and six perfect arches remain. It is of stone, except the arches, which have a mixture of brick. The peasants, by digging under the foundations, are rapidly destroying it. An old man told us that he had seen six or seven piers tumble. A little nearer to Tours is the Pile de Cinq Mars, a solid, nearly square tower of Roman brickwork more than ninety feet high, and about twelve feet by fourteen feet thick. On one side there appear to have been inscriptions or bas-reliefs. Ampère believes it to have been a Roman tomb; but the antiquaries are divided and perplexed. Being absolutely solid, it could not have been built for any use.
I am struck during my walks and drives by the appearance of prosperity. The country about Tours is dotted with country-houses, quite as numerous as in any part of England. In St. Cyr alone there must be between twenty and thirty, and the houses of the peasants are far better than the best cottages of English labourers. Everyone seems to have attached to it a considerable piece of land, from ten acres to two, cultivated in vines, vegetables and fruit. These and green crops are nearly the only produce; there is very little grain. All the persons whom I met appeared to be healthy and well-clad. The soil and climate are good, and the proximity to Tours insures a market; but physical advantages are not enough to insure prosperity. The neighbourhood of Cork enjoys a good climate, soil, and market, but the inhabitants are not prosperous.
After some discussion Tocqueville agreed with me in attributing the comfort of the Tourainese to the slowness with which population increases. In the commune of Tocqueville the births are only three to a marriage, but both Monsieur and Madame de Tocqueville think that the number of children here is still less. I scarcely meet any.
Marriages are late, and very seldom take place until a house and a bit of ground and some capital have been inherited or accumulated. Touraine is the best specimen of the petite culture that I have seen. The want of wood makes it objectionable as a summer residence.
We are now suffering from heat. After eight in the morning it is too hot to walk along the naked glaring roads, yet this is only the first week in April.
Saturday, April 8.—The sun has been so scorching during our two last drives that we have given ouselves a holiday to-day, and only dawdled about Tours.
We went first to the cathedral, which I never see without increased pleasure. Though nearly four hundred years passed from its commencement in the twelfth century to its completion in the fifteenth, the whole interior is as harmonious as if it had been finished by the artist who began it. I know nothing in Gothic architecture superior to the grandeur, richness, and yet lightness of the choir and eastern apse. Thence we went to St. Julien’s, a fine old church of the thirteenth century, desecrated in the Revolution, but now under restoration.
Thence to the Hôtel Gouin, a specimen of the purely domestic architecture of the fifteenth century, covered with elegant tracery and scroll-work in white marble. We ended with Plessis-les-Tours, Louis XI.’s castle, which stands on a flat, somewhat marshy, tongue of land stretching between the Loire and the Cher. All that remains is a small portion of one of the inner courts, probably a guard-room, and a cellar pointed out to us as the prison in which Louis XI. kept Cardinal de la Balue for several years. The cellar itself is not bad for a prison of those days, but he is said to have passed his first year or two in a grated vault under the staircase, in which he could neither stand up nor lie at full length.
‘It is remarkable,’ said Tocqueville, ‘that the glorious reigns in French history, such as those of Louis Onze, Louis Quatorze, and Napoleon ended in the utmost misery and exhaustion, while the periods at which we are accustomed to look as those of disturbance and insecurity were those of comparative prosperity and progress. It seems as if tyranny were worse than civil war.’
‘And yet,’ I said, ‘the amount of revenue which these despots managed to squeeze out of France was never large. The taxation under Napoleon was much less than under Louis Philippe.’
‘Yes,’ said Tocqueville, ‘but it was the want of power to tax avowedly that led them into indirect modes of raising money, which were far more mischievous; just as our servants put us to more expense by their jobs than they would do if they simply robbed us to twice the amount of their indirect gains.
‘Louis XIV. destroyed all the municipal franchises of France, and paved the way for this centralized tyranny, not from any dislike of municipal elections, but merely in order to be able himself to sell the places which the citizens had been accustomed to grant.’
Sunday, April 9.—Another sultry day. I waited till the sun was low, and then sauntered by the side of the river with Tocqueville.
‘The worst faults of this Government,’ said Tocqueville, ‘are those which do not alarm the public.
‘It is depriving us of the local franchises and local self-government which we have extorted from the central power in a struggle of forty years. The Restoration and the Government of July were as absolute centralizers as Napoleon himself. The local power which they were forced to surrender they made over to the narrow pays légal, the privileged ten-pounders, who were then attempting to govern France. The Republic gave the name of Conseils-généraux to the people, and thus dethroned the notaires who had governed those assemblies when they represented only the bourgeoisie. The Republic made the maires elective. The Republic placed education in the hands of local authorities. Under its influence, the communes, the cantons, and the departments were becoming real administrative bodies. They are now mere geographical divisions. The préfet appoints the maires. The préfet appoints in every canton a commissaire de police—seldom a respectable man, as the office is not honourable. The gardes champêtres, who are our local police, are put under his control. The recteur, who was a sort of local Minister of Education in every department, is suppressed. His powers are transferred to the préfet. The préfet appoints, promotes, and dismisses all the masters of the écoles primaires. He has the power to convert the commune into a mere unorganised aggregation of individuals, by dismissing every communal functionary, and placing its concerns in the hands of his own nominees. There are many hundreds of communes that have been thus treated, and whose masters now are uneducated peasants. The préfet can dissolve the Conseil-général of his department and, although he cannot directly name its successors, he does so virtually.
‘No candidate for an elective office can succeed unless he is supported by the Government. The préfet can destroy the prosperity of every commune that displeases him. He can dismiss its functionaries, close its schools, obstruct its improvements, and withhold the assistance in money which the Government habitually gives to forward the public purposes of a commune.
‘The Courts of Law, both criminal and civil, are the tools of the Executive. The Government appoints the judges, the préfet provides the jury, and la haute police acts without either.
‘All power of combination, even of mutual communication, except from mouth to mouth, is gone. The newspapers are suppressed or intimidated, the printers are the slaves of the préfet, as they lose their privilege if they offend; the secrecy of the post is habitually and avowedly violated; there are spies to watch and report conversation.
‘Every individual stands defenceless and insulated in the face of this unscrupulous Executive with its thousands of armed hands and its thousands of watching eyes. The only opposition that is ventured is the abstaining from voting. Whatever be the office, whatever be the man, the candidate of the préfet comes in; but if he is a man who would have been universally rejected in a state of freedom, the bolder electors show their indignation by their absence. I do not believe that, even with peace, and with the prosperity which usually accompanies peace, such a Government could long keep down such a country as France. Whether its existence would be prolonged by a successful war I will not decide. Perhaps it might be.
‘That it cannot carry on a war only moderately successful, or a war which from its difficulties and its distance may be generally believed to be ill managed, still less a war stained by some real disaster, seems to me certain—if anything in the future of France can be called certain.
‘The vast democratic sea on which the Empire floats is governed by currents and agitated by ground-swells, which the Government discovers only by their effects. It knows nothing of the passions which influence these great, apparently slumbering, masses; indeed it takes care, by stifling their expression, to prevent their being known. Universal suffrage is a detestable element of government, but it is a powerful revolutionary instrument.’
‘But,’ I said, ‘the people will not have an opportunity of using that instrument. All the great elective bodies have some years before them.’
‘That is true,’ said Tocqueville, ‘and therefore their rage will break out in a more direct, and perhaps more formidable, form. Depend on it, this Government can exist, even for a time, only on the condition of brilliant, successful war, or prosperous peace. It is bound to be rapidly and clearly victorious. If it fail in this, it will sink—or perhaps, in its terrors and its struggles, it will catch at the other alternative, peace.
‘The French public is too ignorant to care much about Russian aggrandisement. So far as it fancies that the strength of Russia is the weakness of England, it is pleased with it. I am not sure that the most dishonourable peace with Nicholas would not give to Louis Napoleon an immediate popularity. I am sure that it would, if it were accompanied by any baits to the national vanity and cupidity; by the offer of Savoy for instance, or the Balearic Islands. And if you were to quarrel with us for accepting them, it would be easy to turn against you our old feelings of jealousy and hatred.’
We saw vast columns of smoke on the other side of the river. Those whom we questioned believed them to arise from an intentional fire. Such fires are symptoms of popular discontent. They preceded the revolution of 1830. They have become frequent of late in this country.
Monday, April 10.—Tocqueville and I drove this morning to Azy-le-Rideau, another Francis I. château, on an island formed by the Indre. It is less beautifully situated than Chenonceaux; the river Indre is smaller and more sluggish than the Cher; the site of the castle is in a hollow, and the trees round it approach too near, and are the tall and closely planted poles which the French seem to admire. But the architecture, both in its outlines and in its details, is charming. It is of white stone, in this form, with two curtains and
four towers. The whole outside and the ceilings and cornices within are covered with delicate arabesques.
Like Chenonceaux, it escaped the revolution, and is now, with its furniture of the sixteenth century, the residence of the Marquis de Biancourt, descended from its ancient proprietors.
As we sauntered over the gardens, our conversation turned on the old aristocracy of France.
‘The loss of our aristocracy,’ said Tocqueville, ‘is a misfortune from which we have not even begun to recover. The Legitimists are their territorial successors; they are the successors in their manners, in their loyalty, and in their prejudices of caste; but they are not their successors in cultivation, or intelligence, or energy, or, therefore, in influence. Between them and the bourgeoisie is a chasm, which shows no tendency to close. Nothing but a common interest and a common pursuit will bring them together.
‘If the murder of the Duc d’Enghien had not made them recoil in terror and disgust from Napoleon, they might have perhaps been welded into one mass with his new aristocracy of services, talents, and wealth. They were ready to adhere to him during the Consulate. During the Restoration they were always at war with the bourgeoisie, and therefore with the constitution, on which the power of their enemies depended. When the result of that war was the defeat and expulsion of their leader, Charles X., their hostility extended from the bourgeoisie and the constitution up to the Crown. Louis Philippe tried to govern by means of the middle classes alone. Perhaps it was inevitable that he should make the attempt. It certainly was inevitable that he should fail. The higher classes, and the lower classes, all equally offended, combined to overthrow him. Under the Republic they again took, to a certain extent, their place in the State. They led the country people, who came to the assistance of the Assembly in June 1848. The Republic was wise enough to impose no oaths. It did not require those who were willing to serve it to begin by openly disavowing their traditionary opinions and principles. The Legitimists took their places in the Conseils-généraux. They joined with the bourgeoisie in local administration, the only means by which men of different classes can coalesce.
‘The socialist tendencies which are imputed to this Second Empire, the oath which it most imprudently imposes, its pretensions to form a dynasty, and its assertion of the principle most abhorrent to them, elective monarchy, have thrown them back into disaffection. And I believe their disaffection to be one of our great dangers—a danger certainly increased by the Fusion. The principal object of the Fusion is to influence the army. The great terror of the army is division in itself. It will accept anything, give up anything, dare anything, to avoid civil war. Rather than be divided between the two branches, it would have adhered to the Empire. Now it can throw off the Bonapartes without occasioning a disputed succession.’
‘When you say,’ I asked, ‘that the Legitimists are not the successors of the old aristocracy in cultivation, intelligence, or energy, do you mean to ascribe to them positive or relative inferiority in these qualities?’
‘In energy,’ answered Tocqueville, ‘their deficiency is positive. They are ready to suffer for their cause, they are not ready to exert themselves for it. In intelligence and cultivation they are superior to any other class in France; but they are inferior to the English aristocracy, and they are inferior, as I said before, to their ancestors of the eighteenth century. There existed in the highest Parisian society towards the end of that century a comprehensiveness of curiosity and inquiry, a freedom of opinion, an independence, and soundness of judgment, never seen before or since. Its pursuits, its pleasures, its admirations, its vanities, were all intellectual. Look at the success of Hume. His manners were awkward; he was a heavy, though an instructive, converser; he spoke bad French; he would pass now for an intelligent bore. But such was the worship then paid to talents and knowledge—especially to knowledge, and talents employed on the destruction of prejudices—that Hume was, for years, the lion of all the salons of Paris. The fashionable beauties quarrelled for the fat philosopher. Nor was their admiration or affection put on, or even transitory. He retained some of them as intimate friends for life. If the brilliant talkers and writers of that time were to return to life, I do not believe that gas, or steam, or chloroform, or the electric telegraph, would so much astonish them as the dulness of modern society, and the mediocrity of modern books.’
In the evening we discussed the new scheme of throwing open the service of India and of the Government offices to public competition.
‘We have followed,’ said Tocqueville, ‘that system to a great extent for many years. Our object was two-fold. One was to depress the aristocracy of wealth, birth, and connexions. In this we have succeeded. The École Polytechnique, and the other schools in which the vacancies are given to those who pass the best examinations, are filled by youths belonging to the middle classes, who, undistracted by society, or amusement, or by any literary or scientific pursuits, except those immediately bearing on their examinations, beat their better-born competitors, who will not degrade themselves into the mere slaves of success in the concours. Our other object was to obtain the best public servants. In that we have failed. We have brought knowledge and ability to an average; diminished the number of incompetent employés, and reduced, almost to nothing, the number of distinguished ones. Continued application to a small number of subjects, and those always the same, not selected by the student, but imposed on him by the inflexible rule of the establishment, without reference to his tastes or to his powers, is as bad for the mind as the constant exercise of one set of muscles would be for the body.
‘We have a name for those who have been thus educated. They are called “polytechnisés.” If you follow our example, you will increase your second-rates, and extinguish your first-rates; and what is perhaps a more important result, whether you consider it a good or an evil, you will make a large stride in the direction in which you have lately made so many—the removing the government and the administration of England from the hands of the higher classes into those of the middle and lower ones.’
Paris, Sunday, May 14, 1854.
I write to you in meditatione fugœ. We start for England in an hour’s time. The last news that I heard of you was the day before yesterday from Cousin. He read me your letter, which sounded to me like that of a man in not very bad health or hopes. I trust that the attack of which Madame de Tocqueville wrote to us has quite passed off.
Thiers, who asked very anxiously after you to-day, is earnest that you should be present at the election on the 18th. The Academy, he said, is very jealous. Vous serez très-mal vu, if you do not come.
You are at last going seriously to work in the war. By the end of the year you will have, military and naval, 700,000 men in arms.
I wish that they were nearer to the enemy.
Pray remember us most kindly to Madame de Tocqueville, and let us know where you go as soon as you are decided.
N. W. Senior.
St. Cyr, May 21, 1854.
I followed the advice which you were commissioned to give me, my dear Senior. I have just been to Paris, but as I stayed there only twenty-four hours I have not brought back any distinct impressions.
I saw only Academicians who talked about the Academy, and —— who knew nothing of politics. It is true that such is now the case with everyone. Politics, which used to be transacted in open day, have now become a secret process into which none can penetrate except the two or three alchemists who are engaged in its preparation.
You heard of course that after your little visit, which we enjoyed so much, I became very unwell, and my mind was only less affected than my body. I spent a month very much out of spirits and very much tired of myself. During the last eight or ten days I have felt much better. My visit to our friends the Beaumonts did me a great deal of good, and I owe a grudge to the Academy for forcing me to shorten it.
I still intend to visit Germany, but the plan depends on the state of my health. When it is bad I am inclined to give up the journey, when I am better I take it up again and look forward to it with pleasure. On the whole I think that I shall go. But it is impossible for me to settle my route beforehand. Even if I were stronger it would be difficult, for such an expedition must always be uncertain.
I am not going to Germany to see any place in particular, but intend to go hither and thither wherever I can find certain documents and people.
I received yesterday a letter from our friend Ampère. He is still in Rome, still more and more enchanted with the place, and using every argument to induce us to spend there with him the winter of 1856. His descriptions are so attractive that we may very likely be persuaded, especially if we had any chance of meeting you there, for you are one of the people whose society always increases the happiness of life. However, we have plenty of time for talking over this plan.
Adieu, dear Senior.
A. de Tocqueville.
Wildbad, September 19, 1854.
You gave me great pleasure, my dear Senior, by making me acquainted with Sir George and Lady Theresa Lewis.
I must really thank you sincerely for it, for the time passed with them has been the most agreeable part of our journey.
You have no doubt heard of the mischance which has put a stop to our peregrinations: my wife was seized two months ago at Bonn by a violent attack of rheumatism. The waters of Wildbad were recommended to her, and she has been taking them for more than twenty-five days without experiencing any relief. We are promised that the effects will be felt afterwards; but these fine promises only half reassure us, and we shall set out again on our travels in very bad spirits.
Our original intention was to spend the autumn in the North of Germany, but in Madame de Tocqueville’s condition it is evident that there is nothing else to be done but to return home as fast as we can.
We are somewhat consoled by the arrival of our common friend Ampère. He was returning from Italy, through Germany, and, hearing of our misfortune, he has come to look after us in these wild mountains of the Black Forest amidst which Wildbad is situated. He has been with us a week, and I hope that he will accompany us home.
Our intention is to spend a month or six weeks with my father near Compiègne. Towards the first week in November we shall establish ourselves in Paris for the winter. We hope to see you there at the end of this year or the beginning of next.
Ampère, my wife, and I constantly talk of you. If you could overhear us I think you would not be very much dissatisfied. They insist upon being very particularly remembered to you, and as for me I beg you to believe in my most sincere attachment.
A. de Tocqueville.
Compiègne, January 22, 1855.
It was a long time since I had seen your handwriting, my dear Senior, and I was beginning to complain of you; your letter therefore was a double pleasure.
I see that you have resumed your intention of visiting Algiers, and I am anxious that you should carry it into effect.
I hope that we shall be in Paris when you pass through. We put off our departure from day to day; not that we are kept by the charms of our present abode; the house is too small for us and scantily furnished, but I find it such a favourable retreat for study, that I have great difficulty in tearing myself away from it.
I hear, as you do, with great satisfaction of the mutual good feeling of our armies in the Crimea. It far exceeds my expectations.
But I am not equally pleased with your management of the war. The English ought to know that what has passed and is passing there has sensibly diminished their moral force in Europe. It is an unpleasant truth, but I ought not to conceal it from you. I see proofs of it every day, and I have been struck by it peculiarly in a late visit to Paris, where I saw persons of every rank and of every shade of political opinion. The heroic courage of your soldiers was everywhere and unreservedly praised, but I found also a general belief that the importance of England as a military Power had been greatly exaggerated; that she is utterly devoid of military talent, which is shown as much in administration as in fighting; and that even in the most pressing circumstances she cannot raise a large army.
Since I was a child I never heard such language. You are believed to be absolutely dependent on us; and in the midst of our intimacy I see rising a friendly contempt for you, which if our Governments quarrel, will make a war with you much easier than it has been since the fall of Napoleon.
I grieve at all this, not only as endangering the English alliance, which, as you well know, I cherish, but as injuring the cause of liberty.
I can pardon you for discrediting it by your adulation of our despotism, but I wish that you would not serve despotism more efficaciously by your own faults, and by the comparisons which they suggest.
It seems also difficult to say what may not be the results of your long intimacy with such a Government as ours, and of the contact of the two armies. I doubt whether they will be useful to your aristocracy.
Remember me to Lord Lansdowne and to the Lewises, who added such pleasure to our German tour.
Compiègne, February 15, 1855.
I conclude that this frightful weather is still keeping you in London, my dear Senior. I am comforted by the fact that I myself shall not reach Paris before the 28th.
I do not wish to act the part of the pedagogue in the fable who preaches to people when his sermon can no longer be of any possible use, but I cannot help telling you that it is a great imprudence on your part to allow yourself to be caught in this way by the winter in England. What you now suffer from is only a trifling malady, but it may become a real illness if you persist in preferring pleasure to health. Pray think of this in the future and do not tempt the devil.
I have not read the article to which you refer.
I can perfectly understand the reserve which was imposed upon you, and which you were forced to impose on yourself.
I confess that I saw with great grief the sudden change in the expressions of the majority of the English, a year ago, respecting our Government. It was then ill consolidated, and in want of the splendid alliance which you offered to it. It was unnecessary that you should praise it, in order to keep it your friend. By doing so you sacrificed honourable opinions and tastes without a motive.
Now things are changed. After you have lost your only army, and our master has made an alliance with Austria, which suits his feelings much better than yours did, he does not depend on you; you, to a certain extent, depend on him. Such being now the case, I can understand the English thinking it their duty to their country to say nothing that can offend the master of France. I can understand even their praising him; I reproach them only for having done so too soon, before it was necessary.
I agree with you that England ought to be satisfied with being the greatest maritime Power, and ought not to aim at being also one of the greatest military Powers.
But the feelings which I described to you as prevalent in France and in Germany, arose not from your want of an army of 500,000 men. They were excited by these two facts.
First, by what was supposed (perhaps falsely) to be the bad military administration of your only army. Secondly, and much more, by your apparent inability to raise another army.
According to continental notions, a nation which cannot raise as many troops as its wants require, loses our respect. It ceases, according to our notions, to be great or even to be patriotic. And I must confess that, considering how difficult it is to procure soldiers by voluntary enlistment, and how easily every nation can obtain them by other means, I do not see how you will be able to hold your high rank, unless your people will consent to something resembling a conscription.
Dangerous as it is to speak of a foreign country, I venture to say that England is mistaken if she thinks that she can continue separated from the rest of the world, and preserve all her peculiar institutions uninfluenced by those which prevail over the whole of the Continent.
In the period in which we live, and, still more, in the period which is approaching, no European nation can long remain absolutely dissimilar to all the others. I believe that a law existing over the whole Continent must in time influence the laws of Great Britain, notwithstanding the sea, and notwithstanding the habits and institutions. which, still more than the sea, have separated you from us, up to the present time.
My prophecies may not be accomplished in our time; but I should not be sorry to deposit this letter with a notary, to be opened, and their truth or falsehood proved, fifty years hence.
Compiègne, February 23, 1855.
. . . My object in my last letter was not by any means, as you seem to think, to accuse your aristocracy of having mismanaged the Crimean war. It has certainly been mismanaged, but who has been in fault?
Indeed I know not, and if I did I should think at the same time that it would not be becoming in a foreigner to set himself up as a judge of the blunders of any other Government than his own.
I thought that I had expressed myself clearly. At any rate what I wanted to say, if I did not say it, is, that the present events created in my opinion a new and great danger for your aristocracy, and that it will suffer severely from the rebound, if it does not make enormous efforts to show itself capable of repairing the past; and that it would be wrong to suppose that by fighting bravely on the field of battle it could retain the direction of the Government.
I did not intend to say more than this.
I will now add that if it persuades itself that it will easily get out of the difficulty by making peace, I think that it will find itself mistaken.
Peace, after what has happened, may be a good thing for England in general, and useful to us, but I doubt whether it will be a gain for your aristocracy. I think that if Chatham could return to life he would agree with me, and would say that under the circumstances the remedy would not be peace but a more successful war.
A. de Tocqueville.
Paris, Hôtel Bedford.—Friday, March 2, 1855.—We slept on the 27th at Calais, on the 28th at Amiens, and reached this place last night.
Tocqueville called on us this morning. We talked of the probability of Louis Napoleon’s going to the Crimea.
I said, ‘that the report made by Lord John Russell, who talked the matter over with him, was, that he certainly had once intended to go, and had not given it up.’
‘I do not value,’ said Tocqueville, ‘Lord John’s inferences from anything that he heard or saw in his audiences. All Louis Napoleon’s words and looks are, whether intentionally or not, misleading. Now that his having direct issue seems out of the question, and that the deeper and deeper discredit into which the heir presumptive is falling, seems to put him out of the question too, we are looking to this journey with great alarm. We feel that, for the present, his life is necessary to us, and we feel that it would be exposed to many hazards. He ought to incur some military risks, if he is present at a battle or an assault, and his courage and his fatalism will lead him to many which he ought to avoid. But it is disease rather than bullets that we fear. He will have to travel hard, and to be exposed, under exciting circumstances, to a climate which is not a safe one even to the strong.’
‘But,’ I said, ‘he will not be exposed to it long. I have heard thirty, or at most forty, days proposed as the length of his absence.’
‘Who can say that?’ answered Tocqueville. ‘If he goes there, he must stay there until Sebastopol falls. It will not do for him to leave Paris in order merely to look at the works, pat the generals on the back, compliment the army, and leave it in the trenches. Unless his journey produces some great success—in short, unless it gives us Sebastopol—it will be considered a failure; and a failure he cannot afford. I repeat that he must stay there till Sebastopol falls. But that may be months. And what may months bring forth in such a country as France? In such a city as Paris? In such times as these? Then he cannot safely leave his cousin—Jérôme Plon swears that he will not go, and I do not see how he can be taken by force.’
‘I do not understand,’ I said, Jérôme’s conduct. It seemed as if he had the ball at his feet. The rôle of an heir is the easiest in the world. He has only to behave decently in order to be popular.’
‘Jérôme’s chances,’ answered Tocqueville, ‘of the popularity which is to be obtained by decent behaviour were over long before he became an heir. His talents are considerable, but he has no principles, and no good sense. He is Corsican to the bone. I watched him among his Montagnards in the Constituent.
‘Nothing could be more perverse than his votes, nor more offensive than his speeches. He is unfit to conciliate the sensible portion of society, and naturally throws himself into the arms of those who are waiting to receive him—the violent, the rapacious, and the anarchical: this gives him at least some adherents.’
‘What do you hear,’ I asked, ‘of his conduct in the East?’
‘I hear’, said Tocqueville, ‘that he showed want, not so much of courage, as of temper and of subordination. He would not obey orders; he would not even transmit them, so that Canrobert was forced to communicate directly with the officers of Napoleon’s division, and at last required him to take sick leave, or to submit to a court-martial.’
‘I thought,’ I said, ‘that he was really ill.’
‘That is not the general opinion,’ said Tocqueville.
‘He showed himself at a ball directly after his return, with no outward symptoms of ill health.’
The conversation turned on English politics.
‘So many of my friendships,’ said Tocqueville, ‘and so many of my sympathies, are English, that what is passing in your country, and respecting your country, gives me great pain, and greater anxiety. To us, whom unhappily experience has rendered sensitive of approaching storms, your last six months have a frightfully revolutionary appearance.
‘There is with you, as there was with us in 1847, a general malaise in the midst of general prosperity. Your people seem, as was the case with ours, to have become tired of their public men, and to be losing faith in their institutions. What else do these complaints of what is called “the system” mean? When you complain that the Government patronage is bartered for political support, that the dunces of a family are selected for the public service, and selected expressly because they could not get on in an open profession; that as their places are a sort of property, they are promoted only by seniority, and never dismissed for any, except for some moral, delinquency; that therefore the seniors in all your departments are old men, whose original dulness has been cherished by a life without the stimulus of hope or fear, you describe a vessel which seems to have become too crazy to endure anything but the calmest sea and the most favourable winds. You have tried its sea-worthiness in one department, your military organisation, and you find that it literally falls to pieces. You are incapable of managing a line of operations extending only seven miles from its base. The next storm may attack your Colonial Administration. Will that stand any better? Altogether your machinery seems throughout out of gear. If you set to work actively and fearlessly, without reference to private interests, or to private expectations, or to private feelings, to repair, remove and replace, you may escape our misfortunes; but I see no proofs that you are sufficiently bold, or indeed that you are sufficiently alarmed. Then as to what is passing here. A year ago we probably overrated your military power. I believe that now we most mischievously under-rate it. A year ago nothing alarmed us more than a whisper of the chance of a war with England. We talk of one now with great composure. We believe that it would not be difficult to throw 100,000 men upon your shores, and we believe that half that number would walk over England or Ireland. You are mistaken if you think that these opinions will die away of themselves, or will be eradicated by anything but some decisive military success. I do not agree with those who think that it is your interest that Russia should submit while Sebastopol stands. You might save money and men by a speedy peace, but you would not regain your reputation. If you are caught by a peace before you have an opportunity of doing so, I advise you to let it be on your part an armed peace. Prepare yourselves for a new struggle with a new enemy, and let your preparations be, not only as effective as you can make them, but also as notorious.’
Paris, Saturday, March 3.—Tocqueville called on us soon after breakfast.
We talked of the loss and gain of Europe by the war. We agreed that Russia and England have both lost by it. Russia probably the most in power, England in reputation. That Prussia, though commercially a gainer, is humiliated and irritated by the superiority claimed by Austria and conceded to her.
‘You cannot,’ said Tocqueville, ‘estimate the opinions of Germany without going there. There is a general feeling among the smaller Powers of internal insecurity and external weakness, and Austria is looked up to as the supporter of order against the revolutionists, and of Germany against Russia. Austria alone has profited by the general calamities. Without actually drawing the sword she has possession of the Principalities, she has thrust down Prussia into the second rank, she has emancipated herself from Russia, she has become the ally of France and of England, and even of her old enemy Piedmont, she is safe in Italy. Poland and Hungary are still her difficulties, and very great ones, but as her general strength increases, she can better deal with them.’
‘Has not France,’ I said, ‘been also a gainer, by becoming head of the coalition against Russia?’
‘Whatever we have gained,’ answered Tocqueville, ‘has been dearly purchased, so far as it has consolidated this despotism. For a whole year we have felt that the life, and even the reign, of Louis Napoleon was necessary to us. They will continue necessary to us during the remainder of the war. We are acquiring habits of obedience, almost of resignation. His popularity has not increased. He and his court are as much shunned by the educated classes as they were three years ago; we still repeat “que ça ne peut pas durer,” but we repeat it with less conviction.’
We passed the spring in Algeria, and returned to Paris the latter part of May.
Paris, May 26, 1855.—After breakfast I went to the Institut.
M. Passy read to us a long paper on the Art of Government. He spoke so low and so monotonously that no one attended. I sat next to Tocqueville, and, as it was not decent to talk, we conversed a little in writing. He had been reading my Algiers Journal, and thus commented upon it:—
‘Il y a tout un côté, particulièrement curieux, de l’Algérie, qui vous a échappé, parce que vous n’avez pu ou voulu vous imposer l’ennui de causer souvent avec les colons, et que ce côté-là ne se voit pas en parlant avec les gouvernants; c’est l’abus de la centralisation. L’Afrique peut être considérée comme le tableau le plus complet et le plus extraordinaire des vices de ce système.
‘Je suis convaincu que seul, sans les Arabes, le soleil, le désert, et la fièvre, il suffirait pour nous empêcher de coloniser. Tout ce que la centralisation laisse entrevoir de défauts, de ridicules et absurdités, d’oppression, de paperasseries en France, est grossi en Afrique au centuple. C’est comme un pou vu dans un microscope.’
‘J’ai causé,’ I answered, ‘avec Violar et avec mon hôte aux eaux ferrugineuses. Mais ils ne se sont pas plaints de la centralisation.’
‘Ils ne se sont pas plaints,’ he answered, ‘du mot que, peut-être, ils ne connaissaient pas. Mais si vous les aviez fait entrer dans les détails de l’administration publique, ou même de leurs affaires privées, vous auriez vu que le colon est plus gêné dans tous ses mouvements, et plus gouverné, pour son plus grand bien, que vous ne l’avez été quand il s’est agi de votre passeport.
‘Violar faisait allusion à cela quand il vous a dit que les chemins manquaient parce que le Gouvernement ne voulait pas laisser les gouvernés s’en mêler.’
Monday, May 28.—Tocqueville called on me.
I asked him for criticisms on my article on the State of the Continent in the ‘North British Review’ of February 1855.
‘Of course,’ I said, ‘it must be full of blunders. No one who writes on the politics of a foreign country can avoid them. I want your help to correct a few of them.’
‘Since you ask me,’ he answered, ‘for a candid criticism, I will give you one. I accuse you rather of misappreciation than of misstatement. First with respect to Louis Napoleon. After having described accurately, in the beginning of your paper, his unscrupulous, systematic oppression, you end by saying that, after all, you place him high among our sovereigns.’
‘You must recollect,’ I answered, ‘that the article was written for the “Edinburgh Review,” the organ of our Government, edited by Lord Clarendon’s brother-in-law—and that the editor thought its criticisms of Louis Napoleon so severe, that after having printed it, he was afraid to publish it. I went quite as far as I prudently could. I accused him, as you admit, of unscrupulous oppression, of ignorance of the feelings of the people, of being an idle administrator, of being unacquainted with business himself, and not employing those who understand it, of being impatient of contradiction, of refusing advice and punishing censure—in short, I have praised nothing but his foreign policy—and I have mentioned two errors in that.’
‘But I have a graver accusation to bring against you,’ replied Tocqueville. ‘You couple as events mutually dependent the continuance of the Imperial Government and the continuance of the Anglo-Gallic Alliance. I believe this opinion not only to be untrue, but to be the reverse of the truth. I believe the Empire and the Alliance to be not merely, not mutually dependent, but to be incompatible, except upon terms which you are resolved never to grant. The Empire is essentially warlike—and war in the mind of a Bonaparte, and of the friends of a Bonaparte, means the Rhine. This war is merely a stepping stone. It is carried on for purposes in which the mass of the people of France take no interest. Up to the present time its burthens have been little felt, as it has been supported by loans, and the limits of the legal conscription have not been exceeded. But when the necessity comes for increased taxation and anticipated conscriptions, Louis Napoleon must have recourse to the real passions of the French bourgeoisie and peasantry—the love of conquest, et la haine de l’Anglais. Don’t fancy that such feelings are dead, they are scarcely asleep. They might be roused in a week, in a day, and they will be roused as soon as he thinks that they are wanted.
‘What do you suppose was the effect in France of Louis Napoleon’s triumph in England?
‘Those who know England attributed it to the ignorance and childishness of the multitude. Those who thought that the shouts of the mob had any real meaning either hung down their heads in shame at the felf-degradation of a great nation, or attributed them to fear. The latter was the general feeling. “Il faut,” said all our lower classes, “que ces gens-là aient grande peur de nous.”
‘You accuse, in the second place, all the Royalist parties of dislike of England.
‘Do you suppose that you are more popular with the others? That the Republicans love your aristocracy, or the Imperialists your freedom? The real friends of England are the friends of her institutions. They are the body, small perhaps numerically, and now beaten down, of those who adore Constitutional Liberty. They have maintained the mutual good feeling between France and England against the passions of the Republicans and the prejudices of the Legitimists. I trust, as you trust, that this good feeling is to continue, but it is on precisely opposite grounds. My hopes are founded, not on the permanence, but on the want of permanence, of the Empire. I do not believe that a great nation will be long led by its tail instead of by its head. My only fear is, that the overthrow of this tyranny may not take place early enough to save us from war with England, which I believe to be the inevitable consequence of its duration.’
We left Paris soon after this conversation.
[The following are a few extracts from the article in the ‘North British Review.’—Ed.]
‘The principal parties into which the educated society of Paris is divided, are the
‘The Royalists may be again subdivided into Orleanists, Legitimists, and Fusionists; and the Fusionists into Orleanist-Fusionists, and Legitimist-Fusionists.
‘The Imperialists do not require to be described. They form a small party in the salons of Paris, and much the largest party in the provinces.
‘Those who are Royalists without being Fusionists are also comparatively insignificant in numbers. There are a very few Legitimists who pay to the elder branch the unreasoning worship of superstition; who adore Henri V. not as a means but as an end; who pray for his reign, not for their own interests, not for the interests of France, but for his own sake; who believe that he derives his title from God, and that when the proper time comes God will restore him; and that to subject his claims to the smallest compromise—to admit, for instance, as the Fusionists do, that Louis Philippe was really a king, and that the reign of Henri V. did not begin the instant that Charles X. expired—would be a sinful contempt of Divine right, which might deprive his cause of Divine assistance.
‘There are also a very few Orleanists who, with a strange confusion of ideas, do not perceive that a title founded solely on a revolution was destroyed by a revolution; that if the will of the people was sufficient to exclude the descendants of Charles X., it also could exclude the descendants of Louis Philippe; and that the hereditary claims of the Comte de Paris cannot be urged except on the condition of admitting the preferable claims of the Comte de Chambord.
‘The bulk, then, of the Royalists are Fusionists; but though all the Fusionists agree in believing that the only government that can be permanent in France is a monarchy, and that the only monarchy that can be permanent is one depending on hereditary succession; though they agree in believing that neither of the Bourbon branches is strong enough to seize the throne, and that each of them is strong enough to exclude the other, yet between the Orleanist-Fusionists and the Legitimist-Fusionists the separation is as marked and the mutual hatred as bitter, as those which divide the most hostile parties in England.
‘The Orleanist-Fusionists are generally roturiers. They feel towards the noblesse the hatred which has accumulated during twelve centuries of past oppression and the resentment excited by present insolence. Of all the noble families of France the most noble is that of Bourbon. The head of that house has always called himself le premier gentilhomme de France. The Bourbons therefore suffer, and in an exaggerated degree, the odium which weighs down the caste to which they belong. It was this odium, this detestation of privilege and precedence and exclusiveness, or, as it is sometimes called, this love of equality, which raised the barricades of 1830. It was to flatter these feelings that Louis Philippe sent his sons to the public schools and to the National Guard, and tried to establish his Government on the narrow foundation of the bourgeoisie. Louis Philippe and one or two of the members of his family, succeeded in obtaining some personal popularity, but it was only in the comparatively small class, the pays légal, with which they shared the emoluments of Government, and it was not sufficient to raise a single hand in their defence when the masses, whom the Court could not bribe or caress, rose against it. The Orleanist-Fusionists are Bourbonists only from calculation. They wish for the Comte de Paris for their king, not from any affection for him or for his family, but because they think that such an arrangement offers to France the best chance of a stable Government in some degree under popular control: and they are ready to tolerate the intermediate reign of Henri V. as an evil, but one which must be endured as a means of obtaining something else, not very good in itself but less objectionable to them than a Bonapartist dynasty or a Republic.
. . . . . . .
‘The Legitimists have been so injured in fortune and in influence, they have been so long an oppressed caste, excluded from power, and even from sympathy, that they have acquired the faults of slaves, have become timid, or frivolous, or bitter. Their long retirement from public life has made them unfit for it. The older members of the party have forgotten its habits and its duties, the younger ones have never learnt them. Their long absence from the Chambers and from the departmental and municipal councils, from the central and from the local government of France, has deprived them of all aptitude for business. The bulk of them are worshippers of wealth, or ease, or pleasure, or safety. The only unselfish feeling which they cherish is attachment to their hereditary sovereign. They revere Henri V. as the ruler pointed out to them by Providence: they love him as the representative of Charles X. the champion of their order, who died in exile for having attempted to restore to them the Government of France. They hope that on his restoration the canaille of lawyers, and littérateurs, and adventurers, who have trampled on the gentilshommes ever since 1830, will be turned down to their proper places, and that ancient descent will again be the passport to the high offices of the State and to the society of the Sovereign. The advent of Henri V., which to the Orleanist branch of the Fusionists is a painful means, is to the Legitimist branch a desirable end. The succession of the Comte de Paris, to which the Orleanists look with hope, is foreseen by the Legitimists with misgivings. The Fusionist party is in fact kept together not by common sympathies but by common antipathies; each branch of it hates or distrusts the idol of the other, but they co-operate because each branch hates still more bitterly, and distrusts still more deeply, the Imperialists and the Republicans.
‘Among the educated classes there are few Republicans, using that word to designate those who actually wish to see France a republic. There are indeed, many who regret the social equality of the republic, the times when plebeian birth was an aid in the struggle for power, and a journeyman mason could be a serious candidate for the Presidentship, but they are alarmed at its instability. They have never known a republic live for more than a few years, or die except in convulsions. The Republican party, however, though small, is not to be despised. It is skilful, determined, and united. And the Socialists and the Communists, whom we have omitted in our enumeration as not belonging to the educated classes, would supply the Republican leaders with an army which has more than once become master of Paris.
‘The only party that remains to be described is that to which we have given the name of Parliamentarians. Under this designation—a designation that we must admit that we have invented ourselves—we include those who are distinguished from the Imperialists by their desire for a parliamentary form of government; and from the Republicans, by their willingness that that government should be regal; and from the Royalists, by their willingness that it should be republican. In this class are included many of the wisest and of the honestest men in France. The only species of rule to which they are irreconcilably opposed is despotism. No conduct on the part of Louis Napoleon would conciliate a sincere Orleanist, or Legitimist, or Fusionist, or Republican. The anti-regal prejudices of the last, and the loyalty of the other three, must force them to oppose a Bonapartist dynasty, whatever might be the conduct of the reigning emperor. But if Louis Napoleon should ever think the time, to which he professes to look forward, arrived—if he should ever grant to France, or accept from her, institutions really constitutional; institutions, under which the will of the nation, freely expressed by a free press and by freely chosen representatives, should control and direct the conduct of her governor—the Parliamentarians would eagerly rally round him. On the same conditions they would support with equal readiness Henri V. or the Comte de Paris, a president elected by the people, or a president nominated by an Assembly. They are the friends of liberty, whatever be the form in which she may present herself.’
. . . . . .
‘Although our author visits the Provinces, his work contains no report of their political feelings. The explanation probably is, that he found no expression of it. The despotism under which France is now suffering is little felt in the capital. It shows itself principally in the subdued tone of the debates, if debates they can be called, of the Corps Législatif, and the inanity of the newspapers. Conversation is as free in Paris as it was under the Republic. Public opinion would not support the Government in an attempt to silence the salons of Paris. But Paris possesses a public opinion, because it possesses one or two thousand highly educated men whose great amusement, we might say whose great business, is to converse, to criticise the acts of their rulers, and to pronounce decisions which float from circle to circle, till they reach the workshop, and even the barrack. In the provinces there are no such centres of intelligence and discussion, and, therefore, on political subjects, there is no public opinion. The consequence is, that the action of the Government is there really despotic; and it employs its irresistible power in tearing from the departmental and communal authorities all the local franchises and local self-government which they had extorted from the central power in a struggle of forty years.
‘Centralisation, though it is generally disclaimed by every party that is in opposition, is so powerful an instrument that every Monarchical Government which has ruled France since 1789 has maintained, and even tried to extend it.
‘The Restoration, and the Government of July, were as absolute centralisers as Napoleon himself. The local power which they were forced to surrender they made over to the narrow pays légal, the privileged ten-pounders, who were then attempting to govern France. The Republic gave the election of the Conseils généraux to the people, and thus dethroned the notaries who governed those assemblies when they represented only the bourgeoisie. The Republic made the Maires elective; the Republic placed education in the hands of the local authorities. Under its influence the communes, the cantons, and the departments were becoming real administrative bodies. They are now geographical divisions. The Préfet appoints the Maires; the Préfet appoints in every canton a Commissaire de Police, seldom a respectable man, as the office is not honourable; the Gardes champêtres, who are the local police, are put under his control; the Recteur, who was a sort of local Minister of Education in every department, is suppressed; his powers are transferred to the Préfet; the Préfet appoints, promotes, and dismisses all the masters of the écoles primaires. The Préfet can destroy the prosperity of every commune that displeases him. He can displace the functionaries, close its schools, obstruct its public works, and withhold the money which the Government habitually gives in aid of local improvement. He can convert it, indeed, into a mere unorganised aggregation of individuals, by dismissing every communal functionary, and placing its concerns in the hands of his own nominees. There are many hundreds of communes that have been thus treated, and whose masters are now uneducated peasants. The Préfet can dissolve the Conseil général of his department, and although he cannot actually name their successors, he does so virtually. No candidate for an elective office can succeed unless he is supported by the Government. The Courts of law, criminal and civil, are the tools of the executive. The Government appoints the judges, the Préfet provides the jury, and la Haute Police acts without either. All power of combination, even of mutual communication, except from mouth to mouth, is gone. The newspapers are suppressed or intimidated, the printers are the slaves of the Préfet, as they lose their privilege if they offend; the secrecy of the post is habitually and avowedly violated; there are spies in every country town to watch and report conversation; every individual stands defenceless and insulated, in the face of this unscrupulous executive, with its thousands of armed hands and its thousands of watching eyes. The only opposition that is ventured is the abstaining from voting. Whatever be the office, and whatever be the man, the candidate of the Préfet comes in; but if he is a man who would have been unanimously rejected in a state of freedom, the bolder electors show their indignation by their absence.
‘In such a state of society the traveller can learn little. Even those who rule it, know little of the feelings of their subjects. The vast democratic sea on which the Empire floats is influenced by currents, and agitated by ground swells which the Government discovers only by their effects. It knows nothing of the passions which influence these great apparently slumbering masses. Indeed, it takes care, by stifling their expression, to prevent their being known.
. . . . . .
‘We disapprove in many respects of the manner in which Louis Napoleon employs his power, as we disapprove in all respects of the means by which he seized it; but, on the whole, we place him high among the sovereigns of France. As respects his foreign policy we put him at the very top. The foreign policy of the rulers of mankind, whether they be kings, or ministers, or senates, or demagogues, is generally so hateful, and at the same time so contemptible, so grasping, so irritable, so unscrupulous, and so oppressive—so much dictated by ambition, by antipathy and by vanity, so selfish, often so petty in its objects, and so regardless of human misery in its means, that a sovereign who behaves to other nations with merely the honesty and justice and forbearance which are usual between man and man, deserves the praise of exalted virtue. The sovereigns of France have probably been as good as the average of sovereigns. Placed indeed at the head of the first nation of the Continent, they have probably been better; but how atrocious has been their conduct towards their neighbour! If we go back no further than to the Restoration, we find Louis XVIII. forming the Holy Alliance, and attacking Spain without a shadow of provocation, for the avowed purpose of crushing her liberties and giving absolute power to the most detestable of modern tyrants. We find Charles X. invading a dependence of his ally, the Sultan, and confiscating a province to revenge a tap on the face given by the Bey of Algiers to a French consul. We find Louis Philippe breaking the most solemn engagements with almost wanton faithlessness; renouncing all extension of territory in Africa and then conquering a country larger than France—a country occupied by tribes who never were the subjects of the Sultan or of the Bey, and who could be robbed of their independence only by wholesale and systematic massacre; we find him joining England, Spain, and Portugal in the Quadruple Alliance, and deserting them as soon as the time of action had arrived; joining Russia, Prussia, Austria and England, in the arrangement of the Eastern question, on the avowed basis that the integrity of the Ottoman empire should be preserved, and then attempting to rob it of Egypt. We find him running the risk of a war with America, because she demanded, too unceremoniously, the payment of a just debt, and with England because she complained of the ill-treatment of a missionary. We find him trying to ruin the commerce of Switzerland because the Diet arrested a French spy, and deposing Queen Pomare because she interfered with the sale of French brandies; and, as his last act, eluding an express promise by a miserable verbal equivocation, and sowing the seeds of a future war of succession in order to get for one of his sons an advantageous establishment in Spain.
‘The greatest blot in the foreign policy of Louis Napoleon is the invasion of Rome, and for that he is scarcely responsible. It was originally planned by Louis Philippe and Rossi. The expedition which sailed from Toulon in 1849 was prepared in 1847. It was despatched in the first six months of his presidency, in obedience to a vote of the Assembly, when the Assembly was still the ruler of France; and Louis Napoleon’s celebrated letter to Ney was an attempt, not, perhaps constitutional or prudent, but well-intentioned, to obtain for the Roman people liberal and secular institutions instead of ecclesiastical tyranny.
‘His other mistake was the attempt to enforce on Turkey the capitulations of 1740, and to revive pretentions of the Latins in Jerusalem which had slept for more than a century. This, again, was a legacy from Louis Philippe. It was Louis Philippe who claimed a right to restore the dome, or the portico, we forget which, of the Holy Sepulchre, and to insult the Greeks by rebuilding it in the Latin instead of the Byzantine form. Louis Napoleon has the merit, rare in private life, and almost unknown among princes, of having frankly and unreservedly withdrawn his demands, though supported by treaty, as soon as he found that they could not be conceded without danger to the conceding party.
‘With these exceptions, his management of the foreign relations of France has been faultless. To England he has been honest and confiding, to Russia conciliatory but firm, to Austria kind and forbearing, and he has treated Prussia with, perhaps, more consideration than that semi-Russian Court and childishly false and cunning king deserved. He has been assailed by every form of temptation, through his hopes and through his fears, and has remained faithful and disinterested. Such conduct deserves the admiration with which England has repaid it.
‘We cannot praise him as an administrator. He is indolent and procrastinating. He hates details, and therefore does not understand them. When he has given an order he does not see to its execution; indeed, he cannot, for he does not know how it ought to be executed. He directed a fleet to be prepared to cooperate with us in the Baltic in the spring. Ducos, his Minister of Marine, assured him that it was ready. The time came, and not a ship was rigged or manned. He asked us to suspend the expedition for a couple of months. We refused, and sailed without the French squadron. If the Russians had ventured out, and we either had beaten them single-handed, or been repulsed for want of the promised assistance, the effect on France would have been frightful. We have reason to believe that it was only in the middle of February that he made up his mind to send an army to Bulgaria. They arrived by driblets, without any plan of operations, and it was not until August that their battering train left Toulon. It ought to have reached Sebastopol in May. In time, however, he must see the necessity of either becoming an active man of business himself, or of ministering, like other sovereigns, through his Ministers. Up to the present time many causes have concurred to occasion him to endeavour to be his own Minister, and to treat those to whom he gives that name as mere clerks. He is jealous and suspicious, fond of power, and impatient of contradiction. With the exception of Drouyn de l’Huys, the eminent men of France, her statesmen and her generals, stand aloof from him. Those who are not in exile have retired from public life, and offer neither assistance nor advice. Advice, indeed, he refuses, and, what is still more useful than advice, censure, he punishes.
‘But the war, though it must last longer, and cost more in men and in money than it would have done if it were managed with more intelligence and activity, must end favourably. Ill managed as it has been by France, it has been worse managed by Russia. It is impossible that that semi-barbarous empire, with its scarcely sane autocrat, its corrupt administration, its disordered finances, and its heterogeneous populations, should ultimately triumph over the two most powerful nations of Europe, flanked by Austria, and disposing of the fanatical valour of Turkey. If Louis Napoleon pleases the vanity of France by military glory, and rewards her exertions by a triumphant peace; if he employs his absolute power in promoting her prosperity by further relaxing the fetters which encumber her industry; if he takes advantage of the popularity which a successful war, an honourable peace, and internal prosperity must confer on him, to give to her a little real liberty and a little real self-government; if he gradually subsides from a Tύραννος to a Bασιλεύς; if he allows some liberty of the press, some liberty of election, some liberty of discussion, and some liberty of decision; he may pass the remainder of his agitated life in the tranquil exercise of limited, but great and secure power, the ally of England, and the benefactor of France.
‘If this expectation should be realised—and we repeat, that among many contingencies it appears to us to be the least improbable—it affords to Europe the best hope of undisturbed peace and progressive civilisation and prosperity. An alliance with England was one of the favourite dreams of the first Napoleon. He believed, and with reason, that England and France united could dictate to all Europe. But in this respect, as indeed in all others, his purposes were selfish. Being master of France, he wished France to be mistress of the world. All that he gave to France was power, all that he required from Europe was submission. The objects for which he desired our co-operation were precisely those which we wished to defeat. The friendship from which we recoiled in disgust, almost in terror, was turned into unrelenting hatred; and in the long struggle which followed, each party felt that its safety depended on the total ruin of the other.
‘The alliance which the uncle desired as a means of oppressing Europe, the nephew seeks for the purpose of setting her free. The heavy continued weight of Russia has, ever since the death of Alexander, kept down all energy and independence of action, and even of thought, on the Continent. She has been the patron of every tyrant, the protector of every abuse, the enemy of every improvement. It was at her instigation that the Congress of Verona decreed the enslavement of Spain, and that in the conferences of Leybach it was determined to stifle liberty in Italy. Every court on the Continent is cursed with a Russian party; and woe be to the Sovereign and to the Minister who is not at its head: all the resources of Russian influence and of Russian corruption are lavished to render his people rebellious and his administration unsuccessful. From this peine forte et dure we believe that Europe will now be relieved; and if the people or the sovereigns of the Continent, particularly those of Germany and Italy, make a tolerable use of the freedom from foreign dictation which the weakness of Russia will give to them, we look forward to an indefinite course of prosperity and improvement. Unhappily, experience, however, forbids us to be sanguine. Forty years ago, an event, such as we are now contemplating, occurred. A Power which had deprived the Continent of the power of independent action fell, and for several years had no successor. Germany and Italy recalled or re-established their sovereigns, and entrusted them with power such as they had never possessed before. How they used it may be inferred from the general outbreak of 1848. A popular indignation, such as could have been excited only by long years of folly, stupidity, and tyranny, swept away or shook every throne from Berlin to Palermo. The people was everywhere for some months triumphant; and its abuse of power produced a reaction which restored or introduced despotism in every kingdom except Prussia and Piedmont, and even in Prussia gave to the King power sufficient to enable him, up to the present moment, to maintain a policy, mischievous to the interests, disgusting to the sympathies, and injurious to the honour of his people. But while the Anglo-Gallic alliance continues, the Continent will be defended from the worst of all evils, the prevention of domestic improvement, and the aggravation of domestic disturbance, by foreign intervention. That alliance has already preserved the liberty of Piedmont. If it had been established sooner, it might have preserved that of Hesse, and have saved Europe from the revolting spectacle of the constitutional resistance of a whole people against an usurping tyrant and a profligate minister crushed by brutal, undisguised violence.
‘We repeat that we are not sanguine, that we do not expect the tranquil, uninterrupted progress which would be the result of the timely concession on the part of the sovereigns, and of the forbearance and moderation on the part of their subjects, which, if they could profit by the lessons of history, would be adopted by both parties. The only lesson, indeed, which history teaches is, that she teaches none either to subjects or to sovereigns. But we do trust that when the ruler and his people are allowed to settle their own affairs between one another, they will come from time to time to coarse and imperfect, but useful arrangements of their differences. Rational liberty may advance slowly and unequally; it may sometimes be arrested, it may sometimes be forced back, but its march in every decennial period will be perceptible. Like an oak which has grown up among storms, its durability will be in proportion to the slowness of its progress.’
Tocqueville, June 30, 1855.
I have only just arrived here, my dear Senior, after wandering for nearly a month from friend to friend all through the Touraine and the Maine. As you may think, I am, on returning home after so long an absence, overpowered with trifling business. I cannot, therefore, comply to-day with your request and write to you the letter you ask for: I will write it after much thought and at length. The subject is well worthy of the trouble. Shall I at the same time send back to you the conversation which I have corrected, and in what way? The post would be very unsafe and expensive. Give me, therefore, your instructions on this point. But above all, give us news of yourselves and of all our friends.
My wife has borne the journey better than I expected, and the delight we feel in finding ourselves here once more will completely restore her.
This delight is really very great and in proportion to the annoyance of wandering about as we have done for three years without ever finding a place which entirely suited us.
As to public news, I have heard none since I left Paris. The only spot which a single ray of light can ever reach is Paris. All the rest is in profound darkness. If you hear anything important, pray tell me.
Adieu, dear Senior. Remember me to Mrs. and Miss Senior, and believe in our long and very sincere affection,
A. de Tocqueville.
Tocqueville, July 25, 1855.
I wrote to you yesterday, my dear Senior, a long letter according to my promise.
But when I read it over I felt that it was absurd to send such a letter by the post, especially to a foreigner, and I burnt it.
Since the assault of the 18th, the interference of the police in private correspondence has become more active. Many of my friends as well as I myself have perceived it. More letters have been kept back and more have been stopped. Two of mine have been lost. You may remember that two letters from me failed to reach you, three years ago. The danger is greater in the country, where handwritings are known, than in Paris. You advise me to put my letters into a cover directed to your Embassy, which will forward them. But this is no security. If a letter be suspected, it is easy to open and re-seal it, and still easier simply to suppress it.
And, in fact, after all, you have lost little. I wrote to you only what I have a hundred times said to you. We have lived so much together, and with such perfect mutual confidence, that it is difficult for either of us to say anything new to the other.
Besides, on reading over again, with attention, your note of our last conversation, I have nothing to alter. All that I could do would be to develope a little more my opinions, and to support them by additional arguments. I feel more and more their truth, and that the progress of events will confirm them much more than any reasonings of mine can do.
We are annoyed and disturbed, having the house full of workmen. I am trying to warm it by hot air, and am forced to bore through very old and very thick walls; but we shall be repaid by being able to live here during the winter.
I am amusing myself with the letters which our young soldiers in the East, peasants from this parish, write home to their families, and which are brought to me. This correspondence should be read in order to understand the singular character of the French peasant. It is strange to see the ease with which these men become accustomed to the risks of military life, to danger and to death, and yet how their hearts cling to their fields and to the occupations of country life. The horrors of war are described with simplicity, and almost with enjoyment. But in the midst of these accounts one finds such phrases as these: “What crop do you intend to sow in such a field next year?” “How is the mare?” “Has the cow a fine calf?” &c. No minds can be more versatile, and at the same time more constant. I have always thought that, after all, the peasantry were superior to all other classes in France. But these men are deplorably in want of knowledge and education, or rather the education to which they have been subjected for centuries past has taught them to make a bad use of their natural good qualities.
It seems to me that Lord John’s resignation will enable your Cabinet to stand, at least for some time. All that has passed in England since the beginning of the war grieves me deeply. Seen from a distance, your Constitution appears to me an admirable machine which is getting out of order, partly from the wearing out of its works, partly from the unskilfulness of its workers. Such a spectacle is useful to our Government.
I asked you some questions, which you have not answered. Is Mrs. Grote returned from Germany? Is she well? Has she received my letter addressed to her at Heidelberg? The last question is always doubtful when one writes from France.
I send you a letter from the Count de Fénelon, which I think will interest you. You will give it me back when we meet.
I am very curious to know what you will think of Egypt; and I hope that we shall be established in Paris when you return.
A. de Tocqueville.
Tocqueville, September 19, 1855.
Your letter, my dear Senior, of the 26th of August, has much interested me. I see that you are resolved on your great journey. I could say like Alexander, if the comparison were not too ambitious, that I should wish to be in your place if I were not in my own; but I cannot get satiated with the pleasure of being at home after so long an absence. Everything is pleasure in this country life, among my own fields. Even the solitude is charming; but were I anywhere else, I should envy you your tour.
Everything in Egypt is curious: the past, the present, and the future. I hope to learn much from your Journal, which I trust that I shall have. We shall certainly meet you in Paris.
The noise made by the fall of Sebastopol has echoed even to this distant corner of France. It is a glorious event, and has delighted every Frenchman of every party and of every opinion, for in these matters we are one man.
I fear that the victory has been bought dearly. There is not a neighbouring village to which the war has not cost some of its children. But they bear it admirably. You know, that in war we show the best side of our character. If our civilians resembled our soldiers we should long ago have been masters of Europe.
This war has never been popular, nor is it popular, yet we bear all its cost with a cheerfulness admirable when you consider the sorrows which it occasions, aggravated by the distress produced by the dearness of bread. If, instead of the Crimea, the seat of war had been the Rhine, with a definite purpose, the whole nation would have risen, as it has done before.
But the object of the war is unintelligible to the people. They only know that France is at war, and must be made, at any price, to triumph.
I must confess, that I myself, who understand the object for which all this blood is shed, and who approve that object, do not feel the interest which such great events ought to excite; for I do not expect a result equal to the sacrifice.
I think, with you, that Russia is a great danger to Europe. I think so more strongly, because I have had peculiar opportunities of studying the real sources of her power, and because I believe these sources to be permanent, and entirely beyond the reach of foreign attack. (I have not time now to tell you why.) But I am deeply convinced that it is not by taking from her a town, or even a province, nor by diplomatic precautions, still less by placing sentinels along her frontier, that the Western Powers will permanently stop her progress.
A temporary bulwark may be raised against her, but a mere accident may destroy it, or a change of alliances or a domestic policy may render it useless.
I am convinced that Russia can be stopped only by raising before her powers created by the hatred which she inspires, whose vital and constant interest it shall be to keep themselves united and to keep her in. In other words, by the resurrection of Poland, and by the re-animation of Turkey.
I do not believe that either of these means can now be adopted. The detestable jealousies and ambitions of the European nations resemble, as you say in your letter, nothing better than the quarrels of the Greeks in the face of Philip. Not one will sacrifice her passions or her objects.
About a month ago I read some remarkable articles, which you perhaps have seen, in the German papers, on the progress which Russia is making in the extreme East. The writer seems to be a man of sense and well informed.
It appears that during the last five years, Russia, profiting by the Chinese disturbances, has seized, not only the mouth of the Amoor, but a large territory in Mongolia, and has also gained a considerable portion of the tribes which inhabit it. You know that these tribes once overran all Asia, and have twice conquered China. The means have always been the same—some accident which, for an instant, has united these tribes in submission to the will of one man. Now, says the writer, very plausibly, the Czar may bring this about, and do what has been done by Genghis Khan, and, indeed, by others.
If these designs are carried out, all Upper Asia will be at the mercy of a man, who, though the seat of his power be in Europe, can unite and close on one point the Mongols.
I know more about Sir G. Lewis’s book than you do. I have read it through, and I do not say, as you do, that it must be a good book, but that it is a good book. Pray say as much to Sir George when you see him, as a letter of mine to Lady Theresa on the subject may have miscarried.
It is as necessary now for friends to write in duplicate from town to town, as it is if they are separated by the ocean and fear that the ship which carries their letters may be lost. I hear that our friend John Mill has lately published an excellent book. Is it true? at all events remember me to him.
Adieu, my dear Senior. Do not forget us any more than we forget you. Kindest regards to Mrs. Senior, and Miss Senior, and Mrs. Grote.
A. de Tocqueville.
Paris, April 1, 1856.
I write a few lines to you at Marseilles, my dear Senior, as you wished. I hope that you will terminate your great journey as felicitously as you seem to me to have carried it on from the beginning. The undertaking appears to have been a complete success. I wish that it might induce you next year to cross over the ocean to America. I should be much interested in hearing and reading your remarks upon that society. But perhaps Mrs. Senior will not be so ready to start off again; so, that I may not involve myself in a quarrel with her, I will say no more on the subject.
I am longing to see you, for beside our old and intimate friendship I shall be delighted to talk with such an interesting converser, and, above all, to find myself again in the company of (as Mrs. Grote calls you) ‘the boy.’ You will find me, however, in all the vexations of correcting proofs and the other worries connected with bringing out a book. It will not appear till the end of this month.
I can tell you no more about politics than you may learn from the newspapers. Peace, though much desired, has caused no public excitement. The truth is that just now we are not excitable. As long as she remains in this condition France will not strike one of those blows by which she sometimes shakes Europe and overturns herself.
Reeve has been and Milnes still is here. We have talked much of you with these two old friends. Good bye, or rather, thank God, à bientôt.
A thousand kind remembrances to Mrs. Senior.
A. de Tocqueville.
Paris, May 16.—M. de Tocqueville has scarcely been visible since my return to Paris. Madame de Tocqueville has been absent. She returned yesterday, and they spent this evening with us.
Tocqueville is full of his book, which is to appear in about a week. His days and nights are devoted to correcting the press and to writing notes—which he thought would be trifling, but which grow in length and importance.
The object of the work is to account for the rapid progress of the Revolution, to point out the principal causes which enabled a few comparatively obscure men to overthrow in six weeks a Monarchy of many centuries.
‘I am inclined,’ I said, ‘to attribute the rapidity with which the old institutions of France fell, to the fact that there was no lex loci in France. That the laws, or rather the customs, of the different provinces were dissimilar, and that nothing was defined. That as soon as the foundations or the limits of any power were examined, it crumbled to pieces; so that the Assembly became omnipotent in the absence of any authority with ascertained rights and jurisdiction.’
‘There is much truth in that,’ answered Tocqueville, ‘but there is also much truth in what looks like an opposite theory—namely, that the Monarchy fell because its power was too extensive and too absolute. Nothing is so favourable to revolution as centralisation, because whoever can seize the central point is obeyed down to the extremities. Now the centralisation of France under the old Monarchy, though not so complete as its Democratic and Imperial tyrants afterwards made it, was great. Power was concentrated in Paris and in the provincial capitals. The smaller towns and the agricultural population were unorganised and defenceless. The 14th of July revealed the terrible secret that the Master of Paris is the Master of France.’
Paris, May 18.—I spent the day at Athy, the country-seat of M. Lafosse, who had been my companion in our Egyptian journey.
‘What do you hear,’ I asked, ‘of the Empress?’
‘Nothing,’ he answered, ‘but what is favourable; all her instincts and prejudices are good. Lesseps, who is nearly related to her, has many of her letters, written during the courtship, in which she speaks of her dear Louis with the utmost affection, and dwells on the hope that if ever she should become his wife, she may be able to induce him to liberalise his Government.’
‘And now,’ he said, ‘tell me what you heard in England about our Canal?’
‘I heard nothing,’ I answered, ‘except from Maclean. He told me that he thought that the Maritime Canal, if supplied from the sea, would become stagnant and unwholesome, and gradually fill. That that plan was formed when the levels of the two seas were supposed to differ, so that there would be a constant current.
‘ “Now that the equality of their levels has been ascertained,” he said to me, “the only mode of obtaining a current is to employ the Nile instead of the sea.” “But can the Nile spare the water?” I asked. “Certainly,” he answered. “An hour a day of the water from the Nile, even when at its lowest, would be ample.” “And what do the other engineers say?” I asked. “Randall,” he replied, “agrees with me. The others are at present for the salt water. But we are to meet in time and discuss it thoroughly.” ’
‘It is not the opinion of the engineers,’ answered Lafosse, ‘that I want, but that of the politicians.
‘We are told that Lord Palmerston threatens to prevent it as long as he is Minister. This makes us very angry. We think that we perceive in his opposition his old hatred of France and of everything that France supports or even favours—feelings which we hoped the Alliance had cured.
‘The matter,’ he continued, ‘was to have been brought before the Congress. Buol had promised to Nigrelli to do so, and Cavour to Lesseps and Paleocapa. But after the occupation of Italy, and the Belgian press, and the rights of Neutrals had been introduced, the Congress got impatient, and it was thought inexpedient to ask them to attend to another episodical matter. The Emperor, however, did something. He asked Ali Pasha, the Turkish Minister, what were the Sultan’s views. “They will be governed,” said Ali Pasha, “in a great measure by those of his allies.” “As one of them,” said the Emperor, “I am most anxious for its success.” “In that case,” replied Ali Pasha, “the Sultan can have no objection to it in principle, though he may wish to annex to his firman some conditions—for instance, as to the occupation of the forts at each end by a mixed garrison of Turks and Egyptians.” The Emperor then turned to Lord Clarendon. “What are your views,” he asked, “as to the Suez Canal?” “It is a grave matter,” answered Lord Clarendon, “and one on which I have no instructions. But I believe it to be impracticable.” “Well,” replied the Emperor, “but supposing for the sake of the argument, that it is practicable, what are your intentions?” “I cannot but think,” answered Lord Clarendon, “that any new channel of commerce must be beneficial to England. The real difficulty is the influence which the Canal may have in the relations of Egypt and Turkey.” “If that be the only obstacle,” replied the Emperor, “there is not much in it, for Ali Pasha has just told me that if we make no objection the Sultan makes none. We cannot be more Turkish than the Turk.” ’
‘I am most anxious,’ added Lafosse, ‘that this stupid opposition of yours should come to an end. Trifling as the matter may seem, it endangers the cordiality of the Alliance. The people of England, who do not know how jealous and passionnés we are, cannot estimate the mistrust and the irritation which it excites. That an enterprise on which the French, wisely or foolishly, have set their hearts, should be stopped by the caprice of a wrong-headed Englishman, hurts our vanity; and everything that hurts our vanity offends us much more than what injures our serious interests.
‘If the engineers and the capitalists decide in favour of the scheme, you will have to yield at last. You had much better do so now, when you can do it with a good grace. Do not let your acquiescence be extorted.’
Paris, May 19.—After breakfast I spent a couple of hours with Cousin.
‘You have been in England,’ he said, ‘since you left Egypt. What is the news as to our Canal? Will Palmerston let us have it? You must stay a few weeks in Paris to estimate the effect of your opposition to it. We consider Palmerston’s conduct as a proof that his hatred of France is unabated, and the acquiescence of the rest of your Cabinet as a proof that, now we are no longer necessary to you, now that we have destroyed for you the maritime power of Russia, you are indifferent to our friendship.
‘I know nothing myself as to the merits of the Canal. I distrust Lesseps and everything that he undertakes. He has much talent and too much activity, but they only lead him and his friends into scrapes. I daresay that the Canal is one, and that it will ruin its shareholders; but as I am anxious we should not quarrel with England, I am most anxious that this silly subject of dispute should be removed.’
‘Louis Napoleon,’ he continued, ‘professed to wish that you should allow the Sultan to give his consent; but I doubt whether he is sincere. I am not sure that he is not pleased at seeing the Parisians occupied by something besides his own doings, especially as it promotes the national dislike of England. Now that the war is over we want an object. He tries to give us one by launching us into enormous speculations. He is trying to make us English; to give us a taste for great and hazardous undertakings, leading to great gains, great losses, profuse expenditure, and sudden fortunes and failures. Such things suit you; they do not suit us. Our habits are economical and prudent, perhaps timid. We like the petty commerce of commission and detail, we prefer domestic manufactures to factories, we like to grow moderately rich by small profits, small expenditure, and constant accumulation. We hate the nouveaux riches, and scarcely wish to be among them. The progress for which we wish is political progress—not within, for there we are satisfied to oscillate, and shall be most happy if in 1860 we find ourselves where we were in 1820—but without. I believe that our master’s sortie against Belgium was a pilot balloon. He wished to see what amount of opposition he had to fear from you, and from Belgium, and how far we should support him. He has found the two former greater than he expected. I am not sure that he is dissatisfied with the last.’
I spent the morning at H.’s. He too attacked me about the Canal.
‘Do entreat,’ he said, ‘your public men to overrule their ill-conditioned colleague. I told you a year ago, the mischief that you were doing, but I do not think that you believed me. You may find too late that I was right.’
I repeated to him Ellice’s opinion that the commerce of England would not use the canal.
‘I have heard that,’ he said, ‘from Ellice himself, but I differ from him. I agree with him, indeed, that your sailing vessels will not use the canal, but I believe that a few years hence you will have no purely sailing vessels, except for the small coasting trade. Every large ship will have a propeller; and with propellers, to be employed occasionally, and sails for ordinary use, the Mediterranean and the Red Sea are very manageable. I believe that the canal will be useful, and particularly to you. But whatever be the real merits of the scheme, for God’s sake let it be tried. Do not treat us like children, and say, “We know better what is good for you than you do yourselves. You shall not make your canal because you would lose money by it.” ’
‘What did you hear,’ I said, ‘about the Congress?’
‘I heard,’ he answered, ‘that Clarendon was very good, and was the best, and that Walewski was very bad, and was the worst.’
‘Can you tell me,’ I said, ‘the real history of the Tripartite Treaty?’
‘I can,’ he answered. ‘There was an old engagement between the three Powers, entered into last spring, that if they succeeded in the war, they would unite to force Russia to perform any conditions to which she might submit.
‘This engagement had been allowed to sleep; I will not say that it was forgotten, but no one seemed disposed to revert to it. But after the twenty-second Protocol, when Piedmont was allowed to threaten Austria, and neither England nor France defended her, Buol got alarmed. He feared that Austria might be left exposed to the vengeance of Russia on the north and east, and to that of the Italian Liberals on the South. An alliance with France and England, though only for a specified purpose, at least would relieve Austria from the appearance of insulation. She would be able to talk of the two greatest Powers in Europe as her allies, and would thus acquire a moral force which might save her from attack. He recalled, therefore, the old engagement to the recollection of Clarendon and Louis Napoleon, and summoned them to fulfil it. I do not believe that either of them was pleased. But the engagement was formal, and its performance, though open to misconstruction, and intended by Austria to be misconstrued, was attended by some advantages, though different ones, to France and to England. So both your Government and ours complied.’
Tuesday, May 20.—The Tocquevilles and Rivet drank tea with us.
I mentioned to Tocqueville the subject of my conversations with Cousin and H.
‘I agree with Cousin,’ he said. ‘The attempt to turn our national activity into speculation and commerce has often been made, but has never had any permanent success. The men who make these sudden fortunes are not happy, for they are always suspected of friponnerie, and the Government to which they belong is suspected of friponnerie. Still less happy are those who have attempted to make them, and have failed. And those who have not been able even to make the attempt are envious and sulky. So that the whole world becomes suspicious and dissatisfied.
‘And even if it were universal, mere material prosperity is not enough for us. Our Government must give us something more: must gratify our ambition, or, at least, our vanity.’
‘The Government,’ said Rivet, ‘has been making a desperate plunge in order to escape from the accusation of friponnerie. It has denounced in the “Moniteur” the faiseurs; it has dismissed a poor aide-de-camp of Jérôme’s for doing what everybody has been doing ever since the coup d’état. When Ponsard’s comedy, which was known to be a furious satire on the agioteurs, was first played, Louis Napoleon took the whole orchestra and pit stalls, and filled them with people instructed to applaud every allusion to the faiseurs. And he himself stood in his box, his body almost out of it, clapping most energetically every attack on them.’
‘At the same time,’ I said, ‘has he not forced the Orleans Company and the Lyons Company to buy the Grand Central at much more than its worth? And was not that done in order to enable certain faiseurs to realise their gains?’
‘He has forced the Orleans Company,’ said Rivet, ‘to buy up, or rather to amalgamate the Grand Central; but I will not say at more than its value. The amount to be paid is to depend on the comparative earnings of the different lines, for two years before and two years after the purchase.’
‘But,’ I said, ‘is it not true, first, that the Orleans Company was unwilling to make the purchase? and, secondly, that thereupon the Grand Central shares rose much in the market?’
‘Both these facts,’ answered Rivet, ‘are true.’
‘Do you believe,’ I said to Tocqueville, ‘H.’s history of the Tripartite Treaty?’
‘I do,’ he answered. ‘I do not think that at the time when it was made we liked it. It suited you, who wish to preserve the statu quo in Europe, which keeps us your inferiors, or, at least, not your superiors. You have nothing to gain by a change. We have. The statu quo does not suit us. The Tripartite Treaty is a sort of chain—not a heavy one, or a strong one—but one which we should not have put on if we could have avoided it.’
‘Do you agree,’ I asked Tocqueville, ‘with Lafosse, Cousin, and H. as to the effect in Paris of our opposition to the Suez Canal?’
‘I agree,’ he answered, ‘in every word that they have said. There is nothing that has done you so much mischief in France, and indeed in Europe.
‘I am no engineer; I should be sorry to pronounce a decided opinion as to the feasibility or the utility of the canal; but your opposition makes us believe that it is practicable.’
‘Those among us,’ I answered, ‘who fear it, sometimes found their fear on grounds unconnected with its practicability. They say that it is a political, not a commercial, scheme. That the object is to give to French engineers and French shareholders a strip of land separating Egypt from Syria, and increasing the French interest in Egypt.’
‘What is the value,’ answered Tocqueville, ‘of a strip of land in the desert where no one can live? And why are the shareholders to be French? The Greeks, the Syrians, the Dalmatians, the Italians, and the Sicilians are the people who will use the canal, if anybody uses it. They will form the bulk of the shareholders, if shareholders there are.
‘My strong suspicion is, that if you had not opposed it, there never would have been any shareholders, and that if you now withdraw your opposition, and let the scheme go on until calls are made, the subscribers, who are ready enough with their names as patriotic manifestations against you as long as no money is to be paid, will withdraw en masse from an undertaking which, at the very best, is a most hazardous one.
‘As to our influence in Egypt, your journal shows that it is a pet project of the Viceroy. He hopes to get money and fame from it. You imitate both his covetousness and his vanity, and throw him for support upon us.’
Paris, May 21.—The Tocquevilles and Chrzanowski drank tea with us.
We talked of the French iron floating batteries.
‘I saw one at Cherbourg,’ said Tocqueville, ‘and talked much with her commander. He was not in good spirits about his vessel, and feared some great disaster. However, she did well at Kinburn.’
‘She suffered little at Kinburn,’ said Chrzanowski, ‘because she ventured little. She did not approach the batteries nearer than 600 mètres. At that distance there is little risk and little service. To knock down a wall two mètres thick from a distance of 600 mètres would require at least 300 blows. How far her own iron sides would have withstood at that distance the fire of heavy guns I will not attempt to say, as I never saw her. The best material to resist shot is lead. It contracts over the ball and crushes it.’
‘Kinburn, however,’ said Tocqueville, ‘surrendered to our floating batteries.’
‘Kinburn surrendered,’ said Chrzanowski, ‘because you landed 10,000 men, and occupied the isthmus which connects Kinburn with the main land. The garrison saw that they were invested, and had no hope of relief. They were not Quixotic enough, or heroic enough, to prolong a hopeless resistance. Scarcely any garrison does so.’
We talked of Malta; and I said that Malta was the only great fortification which I had seen totally unprovided with earth-works.
‘The stone,’ said Chrzanowski, ‘is soft and will not splinter.’
‘I was struck,’ I said, ‘with the lightness of the armament; the largest guns that I saw, except some recently placed in Fort St. Elmo, were twenty-four pounders.’
‘For land defence,’ he answered, ‘twenty-four pounders are serviceable guns. They are manageable and act with great effect within the short distance within which they are generally used. It is against ships that large guns are wanted. A very large ball or shell is wasted on the trenches, but may sink a ship. The great strength of the land defences of Malta arises from the nature of the ground on which Valetta and Floriana are built, indeed of which the whole island consists. It is a rock generally bare or covered with only a few inches of earth. Approaches could not be dug in it. It would be necessary to bring earth or sand in ships, and to make the trenches with sand-bags or gabions.’
I asked him if he had read Louis Napoleon’s orders to Canrobert, published in Bazancourt’s book?
‘I have,’ he answered. ‘They show a depth of ignorance and a depth of conceit, compared to which even Thiers is modest and skilful. Canrobert is not a great general, but he is not a man to whom a civilian, who never saw a shot fired, ought to give lectures on what he calls “the great principles” or “the absolute principles of war.” He seems to have taken the correspondence between Napoleon and Joseph for his model, forgetting that Canrobert is to him what Napoleon was to Joseph. Then he applies his principles as absurdly as he enunciates them. Thus he orders Canrobert to send a fleet carrying 25,000 men to the breach at Aboutcha, to land 3,000 of them, to send them three leagues up the country, and not to land any more, until those first sent have established themselves beyond the defile of Agen. Of course those 3,000 men would be useless if the enemy were not in force, or destroyed if they were in force. To send on a small body and not to support them is the grossest of faults. It is the fault which you committed at the Redan, when the men who had got on to the works were left by you for an hour unsupported, instead of reinforcements being poured in after them as quickly as they could be sent.
‘In fact,’ he continued, ‘the horrible and mutual blunders of that campaign arose from its being managed by the two Emperors from Paris and from St. Petersburg. Nicholas and Alexander were our best friends. Louis Napoleon was our worst enemy.
‘There is nothing which ought to be so much left to the discretion of those on the spot as war. Even a commander-in-chief actually present in a field of battle can do little after the action, if it be really a great one, has once begun.
‘If we suppose 80,000 men to be engaged on each side, each line will extend at least three miles. Supposing the general to be in the centre, it will take an aide-de-camp ten minutes to gallop to him from one of the wings, and ten minutes to gallop back. But in twenty minutes all may be altered.’
Kensington, August 20, 1856.
A few weeks after my return to London your book reached me—of course from the time that I got it, I employed all my leisure in reading it.
Nothing, even of yours, has, I think, so much instructed and delighted me. Much of it, perhaps, was not quite so new to me as to many others; as I had had the privilege of hearing it from you—but even the views which were familiar to me in their outline were made almost new by their details.
It is painful to think how difficult it is to create a Constitutional Government, and how difficult to preserve one, and, what is the same, how easy to destroy one.
. . . . . .
. . . . . .
Mrs. Senior is going to Wales and to Ireland, where I join her, after having paid a long-promised visit to Lord Aberdeen.
I like the conversation of retired statesmen, and he is one of our wisest. Thiers has just left us. I spent two evenings with him, but on the first he was engrossed by Lord Clarendon, and on the second by the Duc d’Aumale and by Lord Palmerston. They were curious rapprochements, at least the first and third. It was the first meeting of Palmerston and Duc d’Aumale. I am very much pleased with the latter. He is sensible, well informed, and unaffected.
A. W. Senior.
Tocqueville, September 4, 1856.
I have read, my dear Senior, your letter with great pleasure. Your criticism delights me, for I rely on your judgment and on your sincerity. I am charmed that you have found in my book more than you had learned from our conversations, on my view of our history. We have known one another so long, we have conversed so much and so unreservedly, that it is difficult for either of us to write anything that the other will think new. I was afraid that what may appear original to the public might seem trite to you.
The Reeves have been with us; we have passed together an agreeable fortnight. I had charged Reeve to bring you, whether you would or not. Did he make the attempt? I am sure that you would have enjoyed your visit, and we should have rejoiced to have under our roof two such old friends as you and Reeve.
I am glad that you have printed your article; pray try to send it to me.
It seems that you intend this winter to anchor in Rome. It increases my regret that I cannot be there. It is out of the question. My wife’s health and mine are so much improved that the journey is not necessary, and business of all kinds keeps us at home. If you push on to Naples, you will, perhaps, enjoy the absence of the rascally king whom you and I found there five years ago. I applaud the virtuous indignation of the English against this little despot, and their sympathy with the unhappy wretches whom he detains arbitrarily to die slowly in his prisons, which, though not placed in the African deserts or the marshes of Cayenne, are bad enough. The interest which your great nation takes in the cause of humanity and liberty, even when that cause suffers in another country, delights me. What I regret is that your generous indignation is directed against so petty a tyrant.
I must say that America is a puer robustus. Yet I cannot desire, as many persons do, its dismemberment. Such an event would inflict a great wound on the whole human race; for it would introduce war into a great continent from whence it has been banished for more than a century.
The breaking up of the American Union will be a solemn moment in the history of the world. I never met an American who did not feel this, and I believe that it will not be rashly or easily undertaken. There will, before actual rupture, be always a last interval, in which one or both parties will draw back. Has not this occurred twice?
Adieu, dear Senior. Do not be long without letting us hear from you, and remember us affectionately to Mrs. Senior and to your daughter.
September 26, 1856.
Your letter found me at Haddo House, Aberdeenshire, where we have been spending a fortnight with Lord Aberdeen.
It has been very interesting. Lord Aberdeen is one of our wisest statesmen.
. . . . . .
I found Lord Aberdeen deprecating the war, notwithstanding its success, utterly incredulous as to the aggressive intentions attributed to Nicholas, and in fact throwing the blame of the war on Lord Stratford and, to a certain degree, on Louis Napoleon.
I found him also much disturbed by our Naples demonstration, believing it to be an unwarranted interference with an independent Government.
. . . . . .
A. W. Senior.
Tocqueville, November 2, 1856.
I am grateful to you, my dear Senior, for your kindness in telling me what I most wished to hear. The judgments of such men as those with whom you have been living, while they delight me, impose on me the duty of unrelaxed efforts.
Your fortnight at Lord Aberdeen’s amused me exceedingly, and not the least amusing part were the eccentricities of A.B.
There is one point in which the English seem to me to differ from ourselves, and, indeed, from all other nations, so widely that they form almost a distinct species of men. There is often scarcely any connection between what they say and what they do.
No people carry so far, especially when speaking in public, violence of language, outrageousness of theories, and extravagance in the inference drawn from those theories. Thus your A.B. says that the Irish have not shot half enough landlords. Yet no people act with more moderation. A quarter of what is said in England at a public meeting, or even round a dinner-table, without anything being done or intended to be done, would in France announce violence, which would almost always be more furious than the language had been.
We Frenchmen are not so different from our antipodes as we are from a nation, partly our own progeny, which is separated from us by only a large ditch.
I wonder whether you have heard how our illustrious master is relieving the working-people from the constant rise of house-rent. When they are turned out of their lodgings he re-establishes them by force; if they are distrained on for non-payment of rent, he will not allow the tribunals to treat the distress as legal. What think you, as a political economist, of this form of outdoor relief?
What makes the thing amusing is, that the Government which uses this violent mode of lodging the working classes, is the very same Government which, by its mad public works, by drawing to Paris suddenly a hundred thousand workmen, and by destroying suddenly ten thousand houses, has created the deficiency of habitations. It seems, however, that the systematic intimidation and oppression of the rich in favour of the poor, is every day becoming more and more one of the principles of our Government.
I read yesterday a circular from the prefect of La Sarthe, a public document, stuck up on the church-doors and in the market-places, which, after urging the landed proprietors of the department to assess themselves for the relief of the poor, adds, that their insensibility becomes more odious when it is remembered that for many years they have been growing rich by the rise of prices, which is spreading misery among the lower orders.
The real character of our Government, its frightful mixture of socialism and despotism, was never better shown.
I have said enough to prevent your getting my letter. If it should escape the rogue who manages our post-office, let me know as soon as you can.
A. de. Tocqueville.
Tocqueville, February 11, 1857.
I must ask you, my dear Senior, to tell me yourself how you have borne this long winter. I suppose that it has been the same in England as in Normandy, for the two climates are alike.
Here we have been buried for ten or twelve days under a foot of snow, and it froze hard during the whole time. How has your larynx endured this trial? I assure you that we take great interest in that larynx of yours. Give us therefore some news of it.
Your letter gave us fresh pleasure by announcing your intention of passing April and May in Paris. We shall certainly be there at the same time, and perhaps before. I hope that we shall see you continually. We are, you know, among the very many people who delight in your society; besides, we have an excellent right to your friendship.
I am looking forward with great pleasure to your Egypt. What I already know of that country leads me to think that of all your reminiscences it will afford the most novelty and interest.
I do not think that your visit to Paris will be a very valuable addition to your journals. If I may judge by the letters which I receive thence, society there has never been flatter, nor more insipid, nor more entirely without any dominant idea. I need not tell you that your opinion of our statesmen is the same as that which prevails in Paris, but it is of such an ancient date, and is so obvious, that it cannot give rise to interesting discussions.
A-propos of statesmen, we cannot understand how a man who made, inter pocula, the speech of —— on his travels can remain in a government. I think that even ours, though so long-suffering towards its agents, could not tolerate anything similar even if it should secretly approve. Absolute power has its limits. The Prince de Ligne, in a discourse which you have doubtless read, seems to me to have described it in one word by saying that it was the speech of a gamin.
I am, however, ungrateful to criticise it, for I own that it amused me extremely, and that I thought that Morny especially was drawn from life; but I think that if I had the honour of being Her Britannic Majesty’s Prime Minister, I should not have laughed so heartily. How could so clever a man be guilty of such eccentricities?
In my last letter to our excellent friend Mrs. Grote, I ventured to say that there was one person who wrote even worse than I did, and that it was you. Your last letter has filled me with remorse, for I could actually read it, and even without trouble. I beg, therefore, to make an amende honorable, and envy you your power of advancing towards perfection.
. . . . . . . . . .
I still think of paying a little visit to England in June. Adieu, dear Senior. Do not be angry with me for not writing on politics. Indeed I could tell you nothing, for I know nothing, and besides, just now politics are not to be treated by Frenchmen, in letters.
A. de Tocqueville.
Tocqueville, March 8, 1857.
I still write to you, my dear Senior, from hence. We cannot tear ourselves away from the charms of our retreat, or from a thousand little employments. We shall scarcely reach Paris, therefore, before you. You will therefore, yourself bring me the remainder of your curious journal. What I have already seen makes me most anxious to read the rest. I have never read anything which gave me more valuable information on Egypt and Oriental politics in general. As soon as I possibly can, I look forward to continuing its perusal.
The papers tell us that your Ministry has been beaten on the Chinese War. It seems to me to have been an ill-chosen battle-field. The war was, perhaps, somewhat wantonly begun, and very roughly managed; but the fault lay with distant and subordinate agents. Now that it has begun, no Cabinet can avoid carrying it on vigorously. The existing Ministry will do as well for this as any other. As there is no line of policy to be changed, the upsetting is merely to put in the people who are now out.
If the Ministry falls, the man least to be pitied will be our friend Lewis. He will go out after having obtained a brilliant triumph on his own ground, and he will enjoy the good fortune, rare to public men, of quitting power greater than he was when he took it, and with the enviable reputation of owing his greatness, not merely to his talents, but also to the respect and the confidence which he has universally inspired.
All this delights me; for I feel towards him, and towards all his family, a true friendship.
To return to China.
It seems to me that the relations between that country and Europe are changed, and dangerously changed.
Till now, Europe has had to deal only with a Chinese government—the most wretched of governments. Now you will find opposed to you a people; and a people, however miserable and corrupt, is invincible on its own territory, if it be supported and impelled by common and violent passions.
Yet I should be sorry to die before I have seen China open to the eyes as well as to the arms of Europe.
Do you believe in a dissolution? If so, when?
A thousand regards to Mrs. Grote, to the great historian, to the Reeves, and generally to all who are kind enough to remember my existence.
I delight in the prospect of meeting you in Paris; yet I fear that you will find it dull. All that I hear from the great town shows me that never, at least during the last two hundred years, has intellectual life been less active.
If there be talent in the official circles, it is not the talent of conversation, and among those who formerly possessed that talent, there is so much torpidity, such want of interest on public affairs, such ignorance as to what is passing, and so little wish to hear about it, that no one, I am told, knows what to talk about or to take interest in. Your conversation, however, is so agreeable and stimulating that it is capable of reanimating the dead. Come and try to work this miracle.
A. de Tocqueville.
Paris, Hôtel Bedford, April 9, 1857.—We reached this place last night.
The Tocquevilles are in our hotel. I went to them in the evening.
Tocqueville asked me how long I intended to remain.
‘Four weeks,’ I answered.
‘I do not think,’ he replied, ‘that you will be able to do so. Paris has become so dull that no one will voluntarily spend a month here. The change which five years have produced is marvellous.
‘We have lost our interest not only in public affairs, but in all serious matters.’
‘You will return then to the social habits of Louis Quinze,’ I said. ‘You were as despotically governed then as you are now; and yet the salons of Madame Geoffrin were amusing.’
‘We may do so in time,’ he answered, ‘but that time is to come. At present we talk of nothing but the Bourse. The conversation of our salons resembles more that of the time of Law, than that of the time of Marmontel.’
I spent the evening at Lamartine’s. There were few people there, and the conversation was certainly dull enough to justify Tocqueville’s fears.
April 10.—Tocqueville drank tea with us.
We talked of the Empress, and of the possibility of her being Regent of France.
‘That supposes,’ I said, ‘first, that Celui-ci holds his power until his death; and, secondly, that his son will succeed him.’
‘I expect both events,’ answered Tocqueville. ‘It is impossible to deny that Louis Napoleon has shown great dexterity and tact. His system of government is detestable if we suppose the welfare of France to be his object; but skilful if its aim be merely the preservation of his own power.
‘Such being his purpose, he has committed no great faults. Wonderful, almost incredible, as his elevation is, it has not intoxicated him.’
‘It has not intoxicated him,’ I answered, ‘because he was prepared for it—he always expected it.’
‘He could scarcely,’ replied Tocqueville, ‘have really and soberly expected it until 1848.
‘Boulogne and Strasbourg were the struggles of a desperate man, who staked merely a life of poverty, obscurity, and exile. Even if either of them had succeeded, the success could not have been permanent. A surprise, if it had thrown him upon the throne, could not have kept him there. Even after 1848, though the Bourbons were discredited, we should not have tolerated a Bonaparte if we had not lost all our self-possession in our terror of the Rouges. That terror created him, that terror supports him; and habit, and the dread of the bloodshed and distress, and the unknown chances of a revolution, will, I think, maintain him during his life.
‘The same feelings will give the succession to his heir. Whether the heir will keep it, is a different question.’
Sunday, April 12.—Tocqueville drank tea with us. I asked him if he had seen the Duc de Nemours’ letter.
‘I have not seen it,’ he answered. ‘In fact, I have not wished to see it. I disapprove of the Fusionists, and the anti-Fusionists, and the Legitimists, and the Orleanists—in short, of all the parties who are forming plans of action in events which may not happen, or may not happen in my time, or may be accompanied by circumstances rendering those plans absurd, or mischievous, or impracticable.’
‘But though you have not read the letter,’ I said, ‘you know generally what are its contents.’
‘Of course I do,’ he replied. ‘And I cannot blame the Comte de Chambord for doing what I do myself—for refusing to bind himself in contingencies, and to disgust his friends in the hope of conciliating his enemies.’
‘Do you believe,’ I asked, ‘that the mere promise of a Constitution would offend the Legitimists?’
‘I do not think,’ he answered, ‘that they would object to a Constitution giving them what they would consider their fair share of power and influence.
‘Under Louis Philippe they had neither, but it was in a great measure their own fault.
‘They have neither under this Government, for its principle is to rest on the army and on the people, and to ignore the existence of the educated classes.
‘You see that in its management of the press.
‘Montalembert, or Guizot, or Falloux, or I may publish what we like. We are not read by the soldier or by the proletaire. But the newspaper press is subject to a slavery to which it was never reduced before. The system was first elaborated in Austria, and I daresay will be copied by all the Continental autocrats, for no inventions travel so quickly as despotic ones.
‘The public avertissements are comparatively unimportant. Before a journal gets one of those its suppression has probably been decided on. Every day there are communications between the literary police and the different editors. Such or such a line of argument is altogether forbidden, another is allowed to be used to a certain extent. Some subjects are tabooed, others are to be treated partially.
‘As the mental food of the lower orders is supplied by the newspapers, this paternal Government takes care that it shall not be too exciting.’
Paris, Monday, April 13.—Tocqueville, Jobez, Marcet, St.-Hilaire, Charles Sumner, and Lord Granville breakfasted with us.
The conversation turned on public speaking.
‘Very few indeed of our speakers,’ said Tocqueville, ‘have ever ventured to improvise. Barrot could do it. We have told him sometimes that a speech must be answered immediately; and when he objected that he had nothing to say, we used to insist, and to assure him that as soon as he was in the tribune, the ideas and the words would come; and so they did. I have known him go on under such circumstances for an hour; of course neither the matter nor the form could be first rate, but they were sufficient.’
‘In fact,’ said Lord Granville, ‘much of what is called improvisation is mere recollection. A man who has to speak night after night, gets on most subjects a set of thoughts, and even of expressions, which naturally pour in on him as soon as his argument touches the train which leads to them.
‘One of our eminent speakers,’ he continued, ‘Lord Grey, is perhaps best when he has not had time to prepare himself. He is so full of knowledge and of inferences, that he has always enough ready to make an excellent speech. When he prepares himself, there is too much; he gives the House more facts and more deductions than it can digest.’
‘Do you agree with me,’ I asked, ‘in thinking that Lord Melbourne was best when he improvised?’
‘I agree with you,’ answered Lord Granville, ‘that his set speeches were cold and affected. He was natural only when he was quite careless, or when he was much excited, and then he was admirable.’
‘Did not Thiers improvise?’ I asked.
‘Never,’ answered Tocqueville. ‘He prepared himself most carefully. So did Guizot. We see from the “Revue rétrospective” that he even prepared his replies. His long experience enabled him to foresee what he should have to answer. Pasquier used to bring his speech ready written. It lay on the desk before him, but he never looked at it.’
‘That seems to me,’ I said, ‘very difficult. It is like swimming with corks. One would be always tempted to look down on the paper.’
‘It is almost equally difficult,’ said Tocqueville, ‘to make a speech of which the words are prepared. There is a struggle between the invention and the memory. You trust thoroughly to neither, and therefore are not served thoroughly by either.’
‘Yet that,’ said Marcet, ‘is what our Swiss pastors are required to do. They are forbidden to read, and forbidden to extemporise, and by practice they speak from memory—some well, all tolerably.’
‘Brougham,’ said Lord Granville, ‘used to introduce his most elaborately prepared passages by a slight hesitation. When he seemed to pause in search of thoughts, or of words, we knew that he had a sentence ready cut and dried.’
‘Who,’ I asked Sumner, ‘are your best speakers in America?’
‘The best,’ he said, ‘is Seward; after him perhaps comes Winthrop.’
‘I should have thought it difficult,’ I said, ‘to speak well in the Senate, to only fifty or at most sixty members.’
‘You do not speak,’ answered Sumner, ‘to the Senators. You do not think of them. You know that their minds are made up. Except as to mere executive questions, such as the approval of a public functionary, or the acceptance or modification of a treaty, every senator comes in pledged to a given, or to an assumed, set of opinions and measures. You speak to the public. You speak in order that 500,000 copies of what you say, as was the case with my last speech, may be scattered over the whole Union.’
‘That,’ I said, ‘must much affect the character of your oratory. A speech meant to be read must be a different thing from one meant to be heard. Your speeches must in fact be pamphlets, and that I suppose accounts for their length.’
‘That is true,’ replied Sumner. ‘But when you hear that we speak for a day, or for two days, or, as I have sometimes done, for three days, you must remember that our days are days of only three hours each.’
‘How long,’ I asked, ‘was your last speech?’
‘About five hours,’ he answered. ‘Three hours the first day and two hours the second.’
‘That,’ I said, ‘is not beyond our remotest limit. Brougham indeed, on the amendment of the law, spoke for six hours, during the greater part of the time to an audience of three. The House was filled with fog, and there is an H. B. which represents him gesticulating in the obscurity and the solitude.’
‘He,’ said Lord Granville, ‘put his speech on the Reform Bill at the top.’
‘The speech,’ I said, ‘at the end of which he knelt to implore the Peers to pass the bill, and found it difficult to rise.’
Tuesday, April 14.—Z., Sumner, Lord Granville, Tocqueville, M. Circourt, St.-Hilaire, and Corcelle breakfasted with us.
The conversation took the same turn as yesterday.
‘May I venture,’ said Lord Granville to Z., ‘to ask whom of your opponents you feared the most?’
‘Beyond all comparison,’ answered Z., ‘Thiers.’
‘Was not D.,’ I asked, ‘very formidable?’
‘Certainly,’ said Z. ‘But he had not the wit, or the entraînement of Thiers. His sentences were like his action. He had only one gesture, raising and sinking his right arm, and every time that right arm fell, it accompanied a sentence adding a link to a chain of argument, massive and well tempered, without a particle of dross, which coiled round his adversary like a boa constrictor.’
‘And yet,’ said M., ‘he was always languid and embarrassed at starting; it took him ten minutes to get en train.’
‘That defect,’ said Lord Granville, ‘belonged to many of our good speakers—to Charles Fox—to Lord Holland. Indeed Fox required the excitement of serious business to become fluent. He never made a tolerable after-dinner speech.’
‘Among the peculiarities of D.,’ said M., ‘are his perfect tact and discretion in the tribune, and his awkwardness in ordinary life. In public and in private he is two different men.’
‘It is impossible,’ said Tocqueville, ‘to deny that D. was great in a deliberative body, but his real scene of action is the bar. He was only among the best speakers in the Constituent Assembly. He is the greatest advocate at the bar.’
‘Although,’ said M——, ‘at the bar, where he represents only his client, one of the elements of his parliamentary success, his high moral character, does not assist him. Do you remember how, on the debate of the Roman expedition, he annihilated by one sentence Jules Favre who had ventured to assail him? “Les injures,” he said, “sont comme les corps pesants, dont la force dépend de la hauteur d’où ils tombent.”’
‘One man,’ said Z., ‘who enjoys a great European reputation, I could never think of as a serious adversary, that is Lamartine.
‘He appeared to me to treat the sad realities of political life as materials out of which he could compose strange and picturesque scenes, or draw food for his imagination and his vanity. He seemed always to be saying to himself: “How will the future dramatist or poet, or painter, represent this event, and what will be my part in the picture, or in the poem, or on the stage?”
‘Il cherchait toujours à poser.—He could give pleasure, he could give pain—he could amuse, and he could irritate,—but he seldom could persuade, and he never could convince. Even before the gate of the Hôtel de Ville, the most brilliant hour of his life, he owed his success rather to his tall figure, his fine features, attractive as well as commanding, his voice, his action—in short, to the assemblage of qualities which the Greeks called ὑπόκρισις, than to his eloquence.’
‘Was not,’ I said, ‘his contrast between the red flag and the tricolor eloquent?’
‘It was a fine bit of imagery,’ said Z., ‘and admirably adapted to the occasion. I do not deny to him the power of saying fine things—perhaps fine speeches, but he never made a good speech—a speech which it was difficult to answer.’
‘If anyone,’ he continued, ‘ever takes the trouble to look into our Parliamentary debates, Lamartine will hold a higher comparative rank than he is really entitled to. Most of us were too busy to correct the reports for the “Moniteur.” Lamartine not only corrected them but inserted whole passages.’
‘He inserted,’ said M., ‘not only passages but facts. Such as “applaudissements,” “vive émotion,” “hilarité,” often when the speech had been received in silence, or unattended to.’
‘I remember,’ said Corcelle, ‘an insertion of that kind in the report of a speech which was never delivered. It was during the Restoration, when written speeches were read, and sometimes were sent to the “Moniteur” in anticipation of their being read. Such had been the case with respect to the speech in question. The intended orator had inserted, like Lamartine, “vifs applaudissements,” “profonde sensation,” and other notices of the effect of his speech. The House adjourned unexpectedly before it was delivered, and he forgot to withdraw the report.’
‘Could a man like Lord Althorp,’ I asked, ‘whom it was painful to hear, hold his place as leader of a French Assembly?’
‘Impossible,’ said Tocqueville, ‘unless he were a soldier. We tolerate from a man who has almost necessarily been deprived of a careful education much clumsiness and awkwardness of elocution. Soult did not speak much better than the Duke of Wellington, but he was listened to. He had, like the Duke, an air of command which imposed.’
‘Was there,’ I said, ‘any personal quarrel between Soult and Thiers?’
‘Certainly there was,’ said Z., ‘a little one. I will not say that Soult was in Spain a successful commander, or an agreeable colleague, or an obedient subordinate, but whenever things went wrong there, Soult was the man whom the Emperor sent thither to put them to rights. Great as Thiers may be as a military critic, I venture to put him below Napoleon.’
‘I have been reading,’ I said, ‘Falloux’s reception speech, and was disappointed by it.’
‘In his speech and Brifault’s,’ said Circourt, ‘you may compare the present declamatory style and that of thirty years ago. Brifault has, or attempts to have, the légèreté and the prettiness of the Restoration. Falloux is grandiose and emphatic, as we all are now.’
‘Falloux,’ said Z., ‘made an excellent speech the first time that he addressed the Chamber of Deputies. The next time he was not so successful, and after that he ceased to be listened to.
‘But in the Constituent Assembly, and indeed in the Legislative, he acquired an ascendency. In those Assemblies, great moral qualities and a high social position were rarer than they were among the Deputies, and in the dangers of the country they were more wanted. Falloux possesses them all. He is honest and brave, and in his province employs liberally and usefully a large fortune.’
‘Were those the merits,’ I asked, ‘which opened to him the doors of the Academy?’
‘Certainly,’ answered Z. ‘As a man of letters he is nothing, as a statesman not much. We elected him in honour of his courage and his honesty, and perhaps with some regard to his fortune. We are the only independent body left, and we value in a candidate no quality more than independence.’
‘I am told,’ I said, ‘that Falloux is now an ultra-Legitimist.’
‘That is not true,’ said Z. ‘He is a Legitimist, but a liberal one. He would tolerate no Government, whatever were its other claims, that was not constitutional.’
‘Your Academic ceremonies,’ I said ‘seem to me not very well imagined. There is something fade, almost ridiculous, in the literary minuet in which the récipiendaire and the receiver are trotted out to show their paces to each other and to the Academy. The new member extolling the predecessor of whom he is the unworthy successor, the old member lauding his new colleague to his face, and assuring him that he, too, is one of the ornaments of the Society.’
‘Particularly,’ said ——, ‘when, as was the case the other day, it is notorious that neither of them has any real respect for the idol which he is forced to crown. Then the political innuendoes, the under-currents of censure of the present conveyed in praise of the past, become tiresome after we have listened to them for five years. We long to hear people talk frankly and directly, instead of saying one thing for the mere purpose of showing that they are thinking of another thing. The Emperor revenged himself on Falloux by his antithesis: “que le désordre les avait uni, et que l’ordre les avait séparé.’ ”
‘How did Falloux reply to it?’ I asked.
‘Feebly,’ said ——. ‘He muttered something about l’ordre having no firmer adherent than himself. In these formal audiences our great man has the advantage. He has his mot ready prepared, and you cannot discuss with him.’
We talked of the French spoken by foreigners. ‘The best,’ said Circourt, ‘is that of the Swedes and Russians, the worst that of the Germans.’
‘Louis Philippe,’ said Z., ‘used to maintain that the best test of a man’s general talents was his power of speaking foreign languages. It was an opinion that flattered his vanity, for he spoke like a native French, Italian, English, and German.’
‘It is scarcely possible,’ said Tocqueville, ‘for a man to be original in any language but his own; in all others he is forced to say what he can, and that is generally something that he recollects.’
‘I was much struck by that,’ said Z., ‘when conversing with Narvaez. He had been talking sensibly but rather dully in French. I begged him to talk Spanish, which I understand though I cannot speak. The whole man was changed. It was as if a curtain had been drawn up from between us. Instead of hammering at commonplaces, he became pointed, and spirited, and eloquent.’
‘Is he an educated man?’ I asked.
‘For a Spaniard,’ answered Z., ‘yes. He has the quickness, the finesse, and the elegance of mind and of manner which belong to the South. The want of book-learning contributes to his originality.’
‘The most wonderful speaker in a foreign language,’ said Sumner, ‘was Kossuth. He must have been between forty and fifty before he heard an English word. Yet he spoke it fluently, eloquently, and even idiomatically. He would have made his fortune among us as a stumporator.’
Tuesday, April 28.—Tocqueville drank tea with us.
We talked rather of people than of things.
‘Circourt,’ said Tocqueville, ‘is my dictionary. When I wish to know what has been done or what has been said on any occasion, I go to Circourt. He draws out one of the drawers in his capacious head, and finds there all that I want arranged and ticketed.
‘One of the merits of his talk, as it is of his character, is its conscientiousness. He has the truthfulness of a thorough gentleman, and his affections are as strong as his hatreds. I do not believe he would sacrifice a friend even to a good story, and where is there another man of whom that can be said?’
‘What think you of Mrs. T——?’ I inquired.
‘I like her too,’ he replied, ‘but less than I do Circourt. She has considerable talent, but she thinks and reads only to converse. She has no originality, no convictions. She says what she thinks that she can say well; like a person writing a dialogue or an exercise. Whether the opinion which she expresses be right or wrong, or the story that she tells be true or false, is no concern of hers, provided it be bien dit.’
‘The fault of her conversation,’ I said, ‘seems to me to be, that while she is repeating one sentence she is thinking of the next, and that while you are speaking to her, she is considering what is to be her next topic. I have noticed this fault in other very fluent conversers. They are so intent on the future that they neglect the present.’
‘It is rather a French than an English fault,’ said Tocqueville. ‘The English have more curiosity and less vanity, than we have; more desire to hear and less anxiety to shine. They are often, therefore, better causeurs than we are. Le grand talent pour le silence, or, in other words, the power of listening which has been imputed to them, is a great conversational virtue. I do not believe that it was said ironically or epigrammatically. The man who bestowed that praise knew how rare a merit silence is.’
‘May we not owe that merit,’ I asked, ‘to our bad French? We shine most when we listen.’
‘A great talker,’ I continued, ‘Montalembert, is to breakfast with us. Whom shall I ask to meet him?’
‘Not me,’ said Tocqueville, ‘unless you will accept me as one of the chorus. I will not take a premier rôle, or any prominent rôle, in a piece in which he is to act. I like his society; that is, I like to sit silent and hear him talk, and I admire his talents; and we have the strong bond of common hatreds, though perhaps we hate on different, or even opposite grounds, and I do not wish for a dispute with him, of which, if I say anything, I shall be in danger. If we differed on only one subject, instead of differing, as we do, on all but one, he would pick out that single subject to attack me on. I am not sure that even as host you will be safe. He is more acute in detecting points of opposition than most men are in finding subjects of agreement. He avoids meeting you on friendly or even on neutral ground. He chooses to have a combat en champ clos.
‘Take care,’ he added, ‘and do not have too many sommités. They watch one another, are conscious that they are watched, and a coldness creeps over the table.’
‘We had two pleasant breakfasts,’ I said, ‘a fortnight ago. You were leader of the band at one, Z. at the other, and the rest left the stage free to the great actor.’
‘As for me,’ he answered, ‘I often shut myself up, particularly after dinner, or during dinner if it be long. The process of digestion, little as I can eat, seems to oppress me.
‘Z. is always charming. He has an aplomb, an ease, a verve arising from his security that whatever he says will interest and amuse. He is a perfect specimen of an ex-statesman, homme de lettres, and père de famille, falling back on literature and the domestic affections. As for me, I have intervals of sauvagerie, or rather the times when I am not sauvage are the intervals. I have many, perhaps too many, acquaintances whom I like, and a very few friends whom I love, and a host of relations. I easily tire of Paris, and long to fly to the fields and woods and seashore of my province.’
We passed to the language of conversation.
‘There are three words,’ said Tocqueville, ‘which you have lost, and which I wonder how you do without,—Monsieur, Madame, and Mademoiselle. You are forced always to substitute the name. They are so mixed in all our forms that half of what we say would appear abrupt or blunt without them.
‘Then the tutoyer is a nuance that you want. When husband and wife are talking together they pass insensibly, twenty times perhaps in an hour, from the vous to the tu. When matters of business or of serious discussion are introduced, indeed whenever the affections are not concerned, it is vous. With the least soupçon of tenderness the tu returns.’
‘Yet,’ I said, ‘you never use the tu before a third person.’
‘Never,’ he answered, ‘in good company. Among the bourgeoisie always. It is odd that an aristocratic form, so easily learned, should not have been adopted by all who pretend to be gentry. I remember being present when an Englishman and his wife, much accustomed to good French society, but unacquainted with this nuance, were laboriously tutoyering each other. I relieved them much by assuring them that it was not merely unnecessary, but objectionable.’
May 2.—Tocqueville dined with us.
A lady at the table d’hôte was full of a sermon which she had heard at the Madeleine. The preacher said, sinking his voice to an audible whisper, ‘I will tell you a secret, but it must go no farther. There is more religion among the Protestants than with us, they are better acquainted with the Bible, and make more use of their reading: we have much to learn from them.’
I asked Tocqueville, when we were in our own room, as to the feelings of the religious world in France with respect to heretics.
‘The religious laity,’ he answered, ‘have probably little opinion on the subject. They suppose the heretic to be less favourably situated than themselves, but do not waste much thought upon him. The ignorant priests of course consign him to perdition. The better instructed think, like Protestants, that error is dangerous only so far as it influences practice.
‘Dr. Bretonneau, at Tours, was one of the best men that I have known, but an unbeliever. The archbishop tried in his last illness to reconcile him to the Church: Bretonneau died as he had lived. But the archbishop, when lamenting to me his death, expressed his own conviction that so excellent a soul could not perish.
‘You recollect the duchesse in St.-Simon, who, on the death of a sinner of illustrious race, said, “On me dira ce qu’on voudra, on ne me persuadera pas que Dieu n’y regarde deux fois avant de damner un homme de sa qualité.” The archbishop’s feeling was the same, only changing qualité into virtue.
‘There is something amusing,’ he continued, ‘when, separated as we are from it by such a chasm, we look back on the prejudices of the Ancien Régime. An old lady once said to me, “I have been reading with great satisfaction the genealogies which prove that Jesus Christ descended from David. Ça montre que notre Seigneur était Gentilhomme.” ’
‘We are somewhat ashamed,’ I said, ‘in general of Jewish blood, yet the Lévis boast of their descent from the Hebrew Levi.’
‘They are proud of it,’ said Tocqueville, ‘because they make themselves out to be cousins of the Blessed Virgin. They have a picture in which a Duc de Lévi stands bareheaded before the Virgin. “Couvrez-vous donc, mon cousin,” she says. ‘C’est pour ma commodité,” he answers.’
The conversation passed to literature.
‘I am glad,’ said Tocqueville, ‘to find that, imperfect as my knowledge of English is, I can feel the difference in styles.’
‘I feel strongly,’ I said, ‘the difference in French styles in prose, but little in poetry.’
‘The fact is,’ said Tocqueville, ‘that the only French poetry, except that of Racine, that is worth reading is the light poetry. I do not think that I could now read Lamartine, though thirty years ago he delighted me.’
‘The French taste,’ I said, ‘in English poetry differs from ours. You read Ossian and the “Night Thoughts.” ’
‘As for Ossian,’ he answered, ‘he does not seem to have been ever popular in England. But the frequent reference to the “Night Thoughts,” in the books and letters of the last century, shows that the poem was then in everybody’s memory. Foreigners are in fact provincials. They take up fashions of literature as country people do fashions of dress, when the capital has left them off. When I was young you probably had ceased to be familiar with Richardson. We knew him by heart. We used to weep over the Lady Clementina, whom I dare say Miss Senior never heard of.
‘During the first Empire, we of the old régime abandoned Paris, as we do now, and for the same reasons. We used to live in our châteaux, where I remember as a boy hearing Sir Charles Grandison and Fielding read aloud. A new novel was then an event. Madame Cottin was much more celebrated than George Sand is now. For all her books were read, and by everybody. Notwithstanding the great merits of George Sand’s style, her plots and her characters are so exaggerated and so unnatural, and her morality is so perverted, that we have ceased to read her.’
We talked of Montalembert, and I mentioned his sortie the other day against the clergy.
‘I can guess pretty well,’ said Tocqueville, ‘what he said to you, for it probably was a résumé of his article in the “Correspondant.” Like most men accustomed to public speaking, he repeats himself. He is as honest perhaps as a man who is very passionné can be; but his oscillations are from one extreme to another. Immediately after the coup d’état, when he believed Louis Napoleon to be Ultramontane, he was as servile as his great enemy the “Univers” is now. “Ce sont les nuances qui se querellent, non les couleurs;” and between him and the “Univers” there is only a nuance. The Bishop of Agen has oscillated like him, but began at the other end. The other day the Bishop made a most servile address to the Emperor. He had formerly been a furious anti-Bonapartist. “How is it possible,” said Montalembert, “that a man can rush so completely from one opinion to another? On the 4th of December in 1851 this same Bishop denounced the coup d’état with such violence that the President sent me to the Nuncio to request his interference. Now he is on his knees before him. Such changes can scarcely be honest.” Montalembert does not see that the only difference between them is that they have trod in opposite directions the very same path.’
Thursday, May 5.—Tocqueville and I dined with M. and Madame de Bourke, and met there General Dumas and Ary Scheffer.
We talked of Delaroche’s pictures, and Scheffer agreed with me in preferring the smaller ones. He thought that Delaroche improved up to the time of his death, and preferred his Moses, and Drowned Martyr, painted in 1853 and 1855, to the other large ones, and his Girondins, finished in 1856, to the earlier small ones.
We passed on to the increased and increasing population of Paris.
‘The population of Paris,’ I said, ‘is only half that of London, while that of the British Islands is not three-fourths that of France. If you were to double the population of Paris, therefore, it would still be proportionally less than that of London.’
‘That is true,’ said Tocqueville, ‘but yet there are many circumstances connected with the Parisian population each of which renders it more dangerous than the London one. In the first place, there is the absence of any right to relief. The English workman knows that neither he nor his family can starve. The Frenchman becomes anxious as soon as his employment is irregular, and desperate when it fails. The English workmen are unacquainted with arms, and have no leaders with military experience. The bulk of the Frenchmen have served, many of them are veterans in civil war, and they have commanders skilled in street-fighting. The English workmen have been gradually attracted to London by a real and permanent demand for their labour. They have wives and children. At least 100,000 men have been added to the working population of Paris since the coup d’état. They are young men in the vigour of their strength and passions, unrestrained by wives or families. They have been drawn hither suddenly and artificially by the demolition and reconstruction of half the town, by the enormous local expenditure of the Government, and by the fifty millions spent in keeping the price of bread in Paris unnaturally low. The 40,000 men collected in Paris by the construction of the fortifications are supposed to have mainly contributed to the revolution of 1848. What is to be expected from this addition of 100,000? Then the repressive force is differently constituted and differently animated. In England you have an army which has chosen arms as a profession, which never thinks of any other employment, and indeed is fit for no other, and never expects any provision except its pay and its pension. The French soldier, ever since 1789, is a citizen. He serves his six years because the law and the colonel force him to do so, but he counts the days until he can return to his province, his cottage, and his field. He sympathises with the passions of the people. In the terrible days of June, the army withstood the cries, the blessings, the imprecations and the seductions of the mob, only because they had the National Guards by their side. Their presence was a guarantee that the cause was just. The National Guards never fought before as they did in those days. Yet at the Château d’Eau, the miraculous heroism and the miraculous good luck of Lamoricière were necessary to keep them together. If he had not exposed himself as no man ever did, and escaped as no man ever did, they would have been broken.’
‘I was there,’ said Scheffer, ‘when his fourth horse was killed under him. As the horse was sinking he drew his feet out of the stirrups and came to the ground without falling; but his cigar dropped from his mouth. He picked it up, and went on with the order which he was giving to an aide-de-camp.
‘I saw that,’ said Tocqueville. ‘He had placed himself immediately behind a cannon in front of the Château d’Eau which fired down the Boulevard du Temple. A murderous fire from the windows in a corner of the Rue du Temple killed all the artillerymen. The instant that Lamoricière placed himself behind it, I thought that I saw what would happen. I implored him to get behind some shelter, or at least not to pose as a mark. “Recollect,” I said, “that if you go on in this way you must be killed before the day is over—and where shall we all be?” ’
‘ “I see the danger of what I am doing,” he answered, “and I dislike it as much as you can do; but it is necessary. The National Guards are shaking; if they break, the Line follows. I must set an example that everyone can see and can understand. This is not a time for taking precautions. If I were to shelter myself, they would run.” ’
‘How does Lamoricière,’ I asked, ‘bear exile and inactivity in Brussels?’
‘Very ill,’ said Scheffer. ‘He feels that he has compromised the happiness of his wife, whom he married not long before the coup d’état.’
‘Changarnier at Malins, who lives alone and has only himself to care for, supports it much better.’
Tocqueville and I walked home together.
‘Scheffer,’ he said, ‘did not tell all that happened at the Château d’Eau. Men seldom do when they fight over their battles.
‘The insurgents by burrowing through walls had got into a house in the rear of our position. They manned the windows, and suddenly fired down on us from a point whence no danger had been feared. This caused a panic among the National Guards, a force of course peculiarly subject to panics. They turned and ran back 250 yards along the Boulevard St. Martin, carrying with them the Line and Lamoricière himself. He endeavoured to stop them by outcries, and by gesticulations, and indeed by force. He gave to one man who was trying to run by him a blow with his fist, so well meant and well directed that it broke his collar bone.
‘At length he stopped them, re-formed them, and said: “Now you shall march, I at your head, and the drummer beating the charge, as if you were on parade, up to that house.” They did so. After a few discharges, which miraculously missed Lamoricière, the men in the house deserted it.’
‘What were you doing at the Château d’Eau?’ I asked.
‘We were marching,’ he said, ‘with infantry and artillery on the Boulevard du Temple, across which there was a succession of barricades, which it was necessary to take one by one.
‘As we advanced in the middle, our sappers and miners got into the houses on each side, broke through the party walls, and killed the men at the windows.’
‘Those three days,’ he continued, ‘impress strongly on my mind the dangers of our present state.
‘It is of no use to take up pavements and straighten streets, and pierce Paris by long military roads, and loop-hole the barracks, if the Executive cannot depend on the army. Ditches and bastions are of no use if the garrison will not man them.
‘The new law of recruitment, however, may produce a great change. Instead of 80,000 conscripts, 120,000 are to be taken each year. This is about all that are fit for service. They are required to serve for only two years. If the change ended there our army would be still more a militia than it is now. It would be the Prussian Landwehr. But those entitled to their discharge are to be enticed by higher pay, promotions, bounties, and retiring pensions—in short, by all means of seduction, to re-enter for long periods, for ten, or fifteen, or perhaps twenty years. It is hoped that thus a permanent regular army may be formed, with an esprit de corps of its own, unsympathising with the people, and ready to keep it down; and such will, I believe, be the result. But it will take nine or ten years to produce such an army—and the dangers that I fear are immediate.’
‘What are the motives,’ I asked, ‘for the changes as to the conscription, the increase of numbers, and the diminution of the time of service?’
‘They are parts,’ he answered, ‘of the system. The French peasant, and indeed the ouvrier, dislikes the service. The proportion of conscripts who will re-enlist is small. Therefore the whole number must be large. The country must be bribed to submit to this by the shortness of the term. The conscript army will be sacrificed to what is to be the regular army. It will be young and ill-trained.’
‘But your new regular army,’ I said, ‘will be more formidable to the enemy than your present force.’
‘I am not sure of that,’ he answered. ‘The merit of the French army was the impetuosity of its attack, the “furia Francese,” as the Italians called it. Young troops have more of this quality than veterans. The Maison du Roi, whose charge at Steenkirk Macaulay has so well described, consisted of boys of eighteen.’
‘I am re-editing,’ I said, ‘my old articles. Among them is one written in 1841 on the National Character of France, England, and America, as displayed towards foreign nations. I have not much to change in what I have said of England or of America. As they have increased in strength they have both become still more arrogant, unjust, and shameless.
‘England has perhaps become a little more prudent. America a little less so. But France seems to me to be altered. I described her as a soldier with all the faults of that unsocial character. As ambitious, rapacious, eager for nothing but military glory and territorial aggrandisement. She seems now to have become moderate and pacific, and to be devoted rather to the arts of peace than to those of war.’
‘France is changed,’ answered Tocqueville, ‘and when compared with the France of Louis XIV., or of Napoleon, was already changed when you wrote, though the war-cry raised for political purposes in 1840 deceived you. At the same time, I will not deny that military glory would, more than any other merit, even now strengthen a Government, and that military humiliation would inevitably destroy one. Nor must you overrate the unpopularity of the last war. Only a few even of the higher classes understood its motives. “Que diable veut cette guerre?” said my country neighbour to me; “si c’était contre les Anglais—mais avec les Anglais, et pour le Grand Turc, qu’est-ce que cela peut signifier?” But when they saw that it cost only men, that they were not invaded or overtaxed, and that prices rose, they got reconciled to it.
‘It was only the speculators of Paris that were tired of it. And if, instead of the Crimea, we had fought near our own frontiers, or for some visible purpose, all our military passions, bad and good, would have broken out.’
Wednesday, May 13.—Tocqueville came in after breakfast, and I walked with him in the shade of the green walls or arcades of the Tuileries chestnuts.
We talked of the Montijos, which led our conversation to Mérimée and V.
‘Both of them,’ said Tocqueville, ‘were the friends of Countess Montijo, the mother.
‘V. was among the last persons who knew Eugénie as Countess Théba. He escorted her to the Tuileries the very evening of her marriage. There he took his leave of her. “You are now,” he said, “placed so high that I can only admire you from below.” And I do not believe that they have met since.
‘Mérimée took a less sentimental view of the change. He acknowledged his Empress in his former plaything, subsided from a sort of stepfather into a courtier, and so rose to honour and wealth, while V. is satisfied to remain an ex-professor and un homme de lettres.’
. . . . . .
We met Henri Martin, and I asked Tocqueville what he thought of his History.
‘It has the merit of selling,’ he said, ‘which cannot be said of any other History of France. Martin is laborious and conscientious, and does not tell a story ill; but he is a partisan and is always biassed by his own likings and dislikings. He belongs to the class of theorists, unfortunately not a small one, whose political beau idéal is the absence of all control over the will of the people—who are opposed therefore to an hereditary monarchy—to a permanent President—to a permanent magistracy—to an established Church—in short, to all privileged classes, bodies, or institutions. Equality, not liberty or security, is their object. They are centralisers and absolutists. A despotic Assembly elected by universal suffrage, sitting at most for a year, governing, like the Convention, through its committees, or a single despot, appointed for a week, and not re-eligible, is the sort of ruler that they would prefer. The last five years have perhaps disgusted Martin with his Asiatic democracy, but his earlier volumes are coloured throughout by his prejudices against all systems implying a division of power, and independent authorities controlling and balancing one another.’
We talked of the Secret Police.
‘It has lately,’ said Tocqueville, ‘been unusually troublesome, or rather it has been troublesome to a class of persons whom it seldom ventures to molest. A friend of mine, M. Sauvaire Barthélemy, one of Louis Philippe’s peers, was standing at the door of his hotel reading a letter. A gentleman in plain clothes addressed him, announced himself as an agent de police, and asked him if the letter which he was reading was political. “No,” said Barthélemy, “you may see it. It is a billet de mariage.” “I am directed,” said the agent, “to request you to get into this carriage.” They got in and drove to Mazas. There Barthélemy was shown into a neat room with iron bars to the windows, and ordered to wait. After some time Louis Pietri, the Préfet de Police, arrived.
‘ “I am grieved,” he said, “at giving you so much trouble, but I have been commanded to see you in this place, and to inform you that the Emperor cannot bear that a man in your high position should systematically misrepresent him.
‘ “L’Empereur fait tout ce qu’il peut pour le bonheur de la France, et il n’entend pas supporter une opposition aussi constante et aussi violente. Effectivement il ne veut pas d’opposition. Voulez-vous le tenir pour dit, Monsieur, et recevoir de nouveau mes excuses du dérangement que j’ai dû vous causer? Pour le présent vous êtes libre.” ’
[Mr. Senior left Paris on the next day.
M. de Tocqueville paid his promised visit to England in June, and was received with a perfect ovation.—Ed.]
London, July 10, 1857.
I was too ill, my dear friend, to go to you yesterday. Dr. Ferguson tells me that I have been doing too much, and prescribes perfect rest.
I have already read half your journal of 1857. It is very curious; but I am glad that you have disguised me.
It is terrible to be in London, and to see so little of you; but the force of circumstances is greater than the force of wishes.
A. de Tocqueville.
Tocqueville, August 6, 1857.
You may already have had news of me through some of our common friends, my dear Senior, but I wish, besides, to give you some myself, and to thank you again for the kind welcome I received from you and in your house during my stay in London.
I regret only that I was unable to be more with you, and that, in spite of myself, I was drawn into a whirlpool which carried me away and prevented me from following my inclinations.
I have returned, however, full of gratitude for the marks of consideration and affection showered upon me in England. I shall never forget them.
I found my wife already installed here, and in good health; and I have resumed my busy and peaceful life with a delight which does honour to my wisdom. For I had been so spoiled in England that I might have been afraid of finding my retreat too much out of the way and too quiet. But nothing of the sort has happened. The excitement of the past month appears to have added charms to the present.
Nevertheless, I have not yet set to work again, but I am full of good resolutions, which I hope to execute as soon as I have completely returned to my usual habits. These first days have been devoted to putting everything into its regular order.
In France we are almost as much interested as you in England in the affairs of India. Everyone, even in the country, asks me for news of what is going on there.
There is a natural disposition to exaggerate the evil and to believe that your dominion is overturned. For my part, I am waiting with the utmost and most painful anxiety for the development of the drama, for no good can possibly result from it; and there is not one civilised nation in the world that ought to rejoice in seeing India escape from the hands of Europeans in order to fall back into a state of anarchy and barbarism worse than before its conquest.
I am quite sure that you will conquer. But it is a serious business.
A military insurrection is the worst of all insurrections, at least in the beginning. You have to deal with barbarians, but they possess the arms of civilised people given to them by yourselves.
My wife, who has preserved her English heart, is particularly affected by the spectacle which Bengal at present affords.
If you have any more particular news than is to be found in the newspapers, you will give us great pleasure by communicating them.
Remember me to Mrs. and Miss Senior, and to your daughter-in-law.
My wife sends many kind regards to them, as well as to you.
Adieu, dear Senior. Believe in my sincere affection.
A. de Tocqueville.
P.S.—I fancy that the first effect of the Indian affair will be to draw still closer the alliance between England and France.
Tocqueville, November 15, 1857.
I am somewhat angry with you, my dear Senior, for not having yet given us your news. It is treating our friendship unfairly. I have not written to you because I doubted your following exactly your intended route, but I will write to you at Athens, as I think that you must now be there. If you have followed your itinerary your travels must have been most interesting to you, and they will be equally curious to us. I conclude that you only passed quickly through the Principalities in following the course of the Danube. I, however, had depended on you for furnishing me with clear ideas of a country which is at present so interesting to Europe, and which I think is destined to play an important part in the future. And what say you of our friends the Turks? Was it worth while to spend so much money and to shed so much blood in order to retain in Europe savages who are ill disguised as civilised men? I am impatient to talk to you, and almost equally so to read you.
I shall have little to tell you. I have not stirred from home since I left England, and am leading the life of a gentleman-farmer; a life which pleases me more and more every day, and would really make me happy, if my wife were not suffering from an obstinate neuralgic affection in the face. I fear that she may have to go to some mineral waters, which she would be sorry to do; for, as you know, she hates travelling, and does no justice to the reputation for wandering possessed by the English race.
I can tell you nothing on politics which you will not find in the newspapers. The great question at present for all civilised Governments seems to be the financial. The crisis from which America and England are suffering will probably extend everywhere. As for India, you are out, not perhaps of your difficulties, but of your greatest dangers. This affair, and that of the Crimea, show how little sympathy there is for England abroad. There was everything to interest us in your success—similarity of race, of religion, and of civilisation. Your loss of India could have served no cause but that of barbarism. Yet I venture to affirm that the whole Continent, though it detested the cruelties of your enemies, did not wish you to triumph.
Much of this is, without doubt, to be attributed to the evil passions which make men always desire the fall of the prosperous and the strong. But much belongs to a less dishonourable cause—to the conviction of all nations that England considers them only with reference to her own greatness; that she has less sympathy than any other modern nation; that she never notices what passes among foreigners, what they think, feel, suffer, or do, but with relation to the use which England can make of their actions, their sufferings, their feelings, or their thoughts; and that when she seems most to care for them she really cares only for herself. All this is exaggerated, but not without truth.
Kindest regards from us both to you and to Mrs. Senior.
A. de Tocqueville.
Tocqueville, February 10, 1858.
I was delighted, my dear Senior, to receive a letter from you dated Marseilles. You are right in remaining till the spring in the South. We trust to meet you in Paris in March.
I say no more, for I cannot write to you on what would most interest you—French politics. Much is to be said on them; but you will understand my silence if you study our new Law of Public Safety, and remember who is the new Home Minister. For the first time in French history has such a post been filled by a general—and what a general!
I defer, therefore, until we meet, the expression of feelings and opinions which cannot be safely transmitted through the post, and only repeat how eager I am for our meeting.
Kind regards to Mrs. Senior.
A. de Tocqueville.
Tocqueville, February 21, 1858.
I received your letters with great pleasure, my dear Senior, and I think with still greater satisfaction that I shall soon be able to see you.
I shall probably arrive in Paris, with my wife, at about the same time as you will, that is to say, about the 19th of next month. I should have gone earlier if I were not occupied in planting and sowing, for I am doing a little farming to my great amusement.
I am delighted that you intend again to take up your quarters at the Hôtel Bedford, as I intend also to stay there if I can find apartments.
I hope that we shall be good neighbours and see each other as frequently as such old friends ought to do. A bientôt!
A. de Tocqueville.
[Mr. Senior ran over to England for a few weeks instead of remaining in Paris. The meeting between the two friends did not, therefore, take place till April.—Ed.]
Paris, Saturday, April 17, 1858.—We had a discussion at the Institut to-day as to a bust to fill a niche in the anteroom. Rossi was proposed. His political merits were admitted, but he was placed low as to his literary claims as an economist and a jurist. Dupin suggested Talleyrand, which was received with a universal groan, and failed for want of a seconder. Ultimately the choice fell on Dumont.
‘Nothing that is published of Talleyrand’s,’ said Tocqueville to me as we walked home, ‘has very great merit, nor indeed is much of it his own. He hated writing, let his reports and other state papers be drawn up by others, and merely retouched them. But in the archives of the Affaires étrangères there is a large quarto volume containing his correspondence with Louis XVIII. during the Congress of Vienna. Nothing can be more charming. The great European questions which were then in debate, the diplomatic and social gossip of Vienna, the contemporary literature—in short, all that one clever homme du monde could find to interest and amuse another, are treated with wit, brilliancy, and gaiety, supported by profound good sense. When that volume is published his bust will be placed here by acclamation.’
Monday, April 19.—I dined with Lanjuinais, and met Tocqueville, Rivet, Dufaure, Corcelle, Freslon, and one or two others.
They attacked me about the change of sentiment in England with respect to Louis Napoleon.
‘While he was useful to you,’ they said, ‘you steadily refused to admit that he was a tyrant, or even an usurper. You chose to disbelieve in the 3,000 men, women, and children massacred on the Boulevards of Paris—in the 20,000 poisoned by jungle fever in Cayenne—in the 25,000 who have died of malaria, exposure, and bad food, working in gangs on the roads and in the marshes of the Metidja and Lambressa.’
‘We did not choose,’ I answered, ‘to disbelieve any thing. We were simply ignorant. I knew all these facts, because I have passed a part of every year since 1847 in Paris; because I walked along the Boulevards on the 20th of December 1851, and saw the walls of every house, from the Bastille to the Madeleine, covered with the marks of musket-balls; because I heard in every society of the thousands who had been massacred, and of the tens of thousands who had ben déportés; but the untravelled English, and even the travelled English, except the few who live in France among the French, knew nothing of all this. Your press tells nothing. The nine millions of votes given to Louis Napoleon seemed to prove his popularity, and therefore the improbability of the tyranny of which he was accused by his enemies. I knew that those nine millions of votes were extorted, or stolen by violence or fraud. But the English people did not know it. They accepted his election as the will of the nation, and though they might wonder at your choice, did not presume to blame it.’
‘The time,’ they answered, ‘at which light broke in upon you is suspicious. Up to the 14th of January 1858 the oppression under which thirty-four millions of people within twenty-four miles of your coast, with whom you are in constant intercourse, was unknown to you. Their ruler insults you, and you instantly discover that he is an usurper and a tyrant. This looks as if the insult, and the insult alone, opened your eyes.’
‘What opened our eyes,’ I answered, ‘was not the insult but the loi de sûreté publique. It was the first public act which showed to England the nature of your Government.
‘When we found, erected in every department, a revolutionary tribunal, empowered to banish and transport without trial; when we found a rude soldier made Home Minister, and the country divided into five districts to be each governed by a marshal, we saw at once that France was under a violent military despotism. Until that law was passed the surface was smooth. There was nothing in the appearance of France to show to a stranger that she was not governed by a Monarch, practically, indeed, absolute, but governing as many absolute Monarchs have done, mildly and usefully.
‘Of course we might have found out the truth sooner if we had inquired. And perhaps we ought to have inquired. We busy ourselves about our own affairs, and neglect too much those of other countries. In that sense you have a right to say that we chose to be ignorant, since our conduct was such as necessarily to make us ignorant. But it was not because Louis Napoleon was our ally that we chose to be ignorant, but because we habitually turn our eyes from the domestic affairs of the Continent, as things in which we have seldom a right to interfere, and in which, when we do interfere, we do more harm than good.’
We talked of the manner in which the loi de sûreté publique has been carried out. And I mentioned 600 as the number of those who had suffered under it, as acknowledged to me by Blanchard in the beginning of March.
‘It is much greater now,’ said Lanjuinais. ‘Berryer on his return from Italy, a week ago, slept in Marseilles. He was informed that more than 900 persons had passed through Marseilles, déportés under the new law to Algeria. They were of all classes: artisans and labourers mixed with men of the higher and middle classes. To these must be added those transported to Cayenne, who were sent by way of Havre. As for the number expulsés and internés there are no data.’
‘In the Department of Var, a man was found guilty in 1848 of joining in one of the revolutionary movements of that time. His complete innocence was soon proved; he was released, and has lived quietly on his little estate ever since. He was arrested under the new law and ordered to be déporté to Algeria. His friends, in fact all his neighbours, remonstrated, and sent to Paris the proof that the original conviction was a mistake. “Qu’il aille tout de même,” was Espinasse’s answer.
‘In Calvados the Préfet, finding no one whom he could conscientiously arrest, took hold of one of the most respectable men in the department. “If,” he said, “I had arrested a man against whom there was plausible ground for suspicion, he might have been transported. This man must be released.”’
‘Has he been released?’ I asked.
‘I have not heard,’ was the answer. ‘In all probability he has been.’
‘In my department,’ said Tocqueville, ‘the sous-préfet, ordered by the Préfet to arrest somebody in the arrondissement, was in the same perplexity as the Préfet of Calvados. “I can find no fit person,” he said to me. I believe that he reported the difficulty to the Préfet, and that the vacancy was supplied from some other arrondissement.
‘What makes this frightful,’ he added, ‘is that we now know that deportation is merely a slow death. Scarcely any of the victims of 1851 and 1852 are living.’
‘I foretold that,’ I said, ‘at the time, as you will find if you look at my article on Lamartine, published in the “Edinburgh Review.” ’
April 20.—We talked of the political influence in France of the hommes de lettres.
‘It began,’ said Tocqueville, ‘with the Restoration. Until that time we had sometimes, though very rarely, statesmen who became writers, but never writers who became statesmen.’
‘You had hommes de lettres,’ I said, ‘in the early Revolutionary Assemblies—Mirabeau for instance.’
‘Mirabeau,’ he answered, ‘is your best example, for Mirabeau, until he became a statesman, lived by his pen. Still I should scarcely call a man of his high birth and great expectations un homme de lettres. That appellation seems to belong to a man who owes his position in early life to literature. Such a man is Thiers, or Guizot, as opposed to such men as Gladstone, Lord John Russell, or Montalembert.’
Wednesday, April 21.—I dined with D. and met, among several others, Admiral Matthieu the Imperial Hydrographer, and a general whose name I did not catch. I talked to the general about the army.
‘We are increasing it,’ he said, ‘but not very materially. We are rather giving ourselves the means of a future rapid increase, than making an immediate augmentation. We are raising the number of men from 354,000 to 392,400, in round numbers to 400,000; but the principal increase is in the cadres, the officers attached to each battalion. We have increased them by more than one third. So that if a war should break out we can instantly—that is to say in three months, increase our army to 600,000 or even 700,000 men. Soldiers are never wanting in France, the difficulty always is to find officers.’
‘I hear,’ I said, ‘that you are making great improvements in your artillery.’
‘We are,’ he answered. ‘We are applying to it the principle of the Minié musket, and we are improving the material. We hope to make our guns as capable of resisting rapid and continued firing as well and as long as the English and the Swedish guns, which are the best in Europe, can do. And we find that we can throw a ball on the Minié principle with equal precision twice as far. This will double the force of all our batteries.’
‘Are you,’ he asked me, ‘among those who have taken shares in the Russian railways?’
‘No,’ I said. ‘They are the last that I wish to encourage.’
‘Englishmen or Frenchmen,’ he answered, ‘who help Russia to make railways, put me in mind of the Dutch who sold powder to their besiegers.
‘The thinness of her population—that is, the vast space over which it is scattered—alone prevents Russia from being the mistress of Europe. If her 64,000,000 were as concentrated as our 34,000,000 are, she would be irresistible. She loses always far more men in marching than in fighting.’
‘The events of the war,’ I said, ‘lead me to believe that the goodness of the Russian soldier is exaggerated. They were always beaten, often by inferior numbers.’
‘In the first place,’ he answered, ‘those who were beaten at Sebastopol were not the best Russian soldiers. They were short small men, generally drawn from the neighbouring provinces. The Russian Imperial Guards and the Russian Army in Poland are far superior to any that we encountered in the Crimea. In the second place, they were ill commanded. The improvements of weapons, of science and of discipline, have raised the privates of all the great military nations to about the same level. Success now depends on numbers and on generalship. With railways Russia will be able to bring quickly a preponderating force to any point on her frontier. Her officers are already good, and for money she can import the best generals; indeed, I do not see why she should not breed them. Russia is civilised enough to produce men of the highest military qualities.’
I asked Admiral Matthieu about the naval preparations of France.
‘The “Moniteur,” ’ I said, ‘denies that you are making any.’
‘The “Moniteur,” ’ he answered, ‘does not tell the truth. We are augmenting largely, both the number and the efficacy of our fleet.
‘Four years ago, at the beginning of the Russian war, we resolved to build a steam fleet of 150 steam ships of different sizes for fighting, and 74 steam ships for the transfer service, and to carry fuel and stores. Though we set about this in the beginning, as we thought, of a long war, we have not allowed the peace to interrupt it. We are devoting to it sixty-five millions a year (2,600,000l.) of which from fifteen to seventeen millions are employed every year in building new ships, and from forty to forty-two in adding steam power to the old ones. We hope to finish this great work in fourteen years.’
‘What,’ I asked, ‘is the amount of your present fleet of steamers?’
‘We have thirty-three screws,’ he answered, ‘fifty-seven paddles, and sixty-two sailing vessels in commission, and seventy-three, mostly steamers, en réserve, as you would say, in ordinary.’
‘Manned by how many men?’ I asked.
‘By twenty-five thousand sailors,’ he answered, ‘and eleven thousand marines. But our inscription maritime would give us in a few months or less one hundred thousand more. Since the times of Louis XVI. the French Navy has never been so formidable, positively or relatively.’
‘How,’ I asked, ‘has your “Napoleon” succeeded?’
‘Admirably,’ he answered. ‘I have not seen the “Wellington,” but she is a much finer ship than the Agamemnon. Her speed is wonderful. A month ago she left Toulon at seven in the morning, and reached Ajaccio by four in the evening. But the great improvement is in our men. Napoleon knew nothing and cared nothing about sailors. He took no care about their training, and often wasted them in land operations, for which landsmen would have done as well.
‘In 1814 he left Toulon absolutely unguarded, and sent all the sailors to join Augereau. You might have walked into it.
‘In 1810 or 1811 I was on board a French corvette which fought an action with an English vessel, the “Lively.” We passed three times under her stern, and raked her each time. We ought to have cleared her decks. Not a shot touched her. The other day at Cherbourg I saw a broadside fired at a floating mark three cables off, the usual distance at which ships engage. Ten balls hit it, and we could see that all the others passed near enough to shake it by their wind.
‘A ship of eighty guns has now forty canonniers and forty maîtres de pièces. All practical artillerymen, and even the able seamen, can point a gun. Nelson’s manœuvre of breaking the line could not be used against a French fleet, such as a French fleet is now. The leading ships would be destroyed one after another, by the concentrated fire. Formerly our officers dreaded a maritime war. They knew that defeat awaited them, possibly death. Now they are confident, and eager to try their hands.’
In the evening L. took me into a corner, and we had a long conversation.
He had been reading my ‘Athens Journal.’
‘What struck me,’ he said, ‘in every page of it, was the resemblance of King Otho to Louis Napoleon.’
‘I see the resemblance,’ I answered, ‘but it is the resemblance of a dwarf to a giant.’
‘No,’ he replied. ‘Of a man five feet seven inches high to one five feet eleven inches. There are not more than four inches between them. There is the same cunning, the same coldness, the same vindictiveness, the same silence, the same perseverance, the same unscrupulousness, the same selfishness, the same anxiety to appear to do everything that is done, and above all, the same determination to destroy, or to seduce by corruption or by violence, every man and every institution favourable to liberty, independence, or self-government. In one respect Otho had the more difficult task. He found himself, in 1843, subject to a Constitution carefully framed under the advice of England for the express purpose of controlling him. He did not attempt to get rid of it by a coup d’état, or even to alter it, but cunningly and skilfully perverted it into an instrument of despotism. Louis Napoleon destroyed the Constitution which he found, and made a new one, copied from that which had been gradually elaborated by his uncle, which as a restraint is intentionally powerless and fraudulent.
‘A man,’ he continued, ‘may acquire influence either by possessing in a higher degree the qualities which belong to his country and to his time, or by possessing those in which they are deficient.
‘Wellington is an example of this first sort. His excellences were those of an Englishman carried almost to perfection.
‘Louis Napoleon belongs to the second. If his merits had been impetuous courage, rapidity of ideas, quickness of decision, frankness, versatility and resource, he would have been surrounded by his equals or his superiors. He predominated over those with whom he came in contact because he differed from them. Because he was calm, slow, reserved, silent, and persevering. Because he is a Dutchman, not a Frenchman.’
‘He seems,’ I said, ‘to have lost his calmness.’
‘Yes,’ answered L. ‘But under what a shock! And observe that though the greatest risk was encountered by him, the terror was greatest among his entourage. I do not believe that if he had been left to himself he would have lost his prudence or his self-possession. He did not for the first day. Passions are contagious. Everyone who approached him was agitated by terror and anger. His intrepidity and self-reliance, great as they are, were disturbed by the hubbub all round him. His great defects are three. First, his habit of self-contemplation. He belongs to the men whom the Germans call subjective, whose eye is always turned inwardly; who think only of themselves, of their own character, and of their own fortunes. Secondly, his jealousy of able men. He wishes to be what you called him, a giant, and as Nature has not made him positively tall, he tries to be comparatively so, by surrounding himself with dwarfs. His third defect is the disproportion of his wishes to his means. His desires are enormous. No power, no wealth, no expenditure would satisfy them. Even if he had his uncle’s genius and his uncle’s indefatigability, he would sink, as his uncle did, under the exorbitance of his attempts. As he is not a man of genius, or even a man of remarkable ability, as he is ignorant, uninventive and idle, you will see him flounder and fall from one failure to another.
‘During the three years that Drouyn de L’Huys was his minister he was intent on home affairs—on his marriage, on the Louvre, on the artillery, on his bonnes fortunes, and on the new delights of unbounded expenditure. He left foreign affairs altogether to his minister. When Drouyn de L’Huys left him, the road before him was plain—he had only to carry on the war. But when the war was over, the road ended; neither he nor Walewski nor any of his entourage know anything of the country in which they are travelling. You see them wandering at hazard. Sometimes trying to find their way to Russia, sometimes to England. Making a treaty with Austria, then attempting to injure her, and failing; attempting to injure Turkey, and failing; bullying Naples, and failing; threatening Switzerland, threatening Belgium, and at last demanding from England an Alien Bill, which they ought to know to be incompatible with the laws and hateful to the feelings of the people.
‘He is not satisfied with seeing the country prosperous and respected abroad. He wants to dazzle. His policy, domestic and foreign, is a policy of vanity and ostentation—motives which mislead everyone both in private and in public life.
‘His great moral merits are kindness and sympathy. He is a faithful attached friend, and wishes to serve all who come near him.
‘His greatest moral fault is his ignorance of the difference between right and wrong; perhaps his natural insensibility to it, his want of the organs by which that difference is perceived—a defect which he inherits from his uncle.’
‘The uncle,’ I said, ‘had at least one moral sense—he could understand the difference between pecuniary honesty and dishonesty, a difference which this man seems not to see, or not to value.’
‘I agree with you,’ said L. ‘He cannot value it, or he would not look complacently on the peculation which surrounds him. Every six months some magnificent hotel rises in the Champs Elysées, built by a man who had nothing, and has been a minister for a year or two.’
On my return I found Tocqueville with the ladies. I gave him an outline of what L. had said.
‘No one,’ he said, ‘knows Louis Napoleon better than L.’
‘My opportunities of judging him have been much fewer, but as far as they have gone, they lead to the same conclusions. L. perhaps has not dwelt enough on his indolence. Probably as he grows older, and the effects of his early habits tell on him, it increases. I am told that it is difficult to make him attend to business, that he prolongs audiences apparently to kill time.
‘One of the few of my acquaintances who go near him, was detained by him for an hour to answer questions about the members of the Corps législatif. Louis Napoleon inquired about their families, their fortunes, their previous histories. Nothing about their personal qualities. These are things that do not interest him. He supposes that men differ only in externals. “That the fond is the same in everyone.” ’
April 26.—Tocqueville spent the evening with us.
We talked of Novels.
‘I read none,’ he said, ‘that end ill. Why should one voluntarily subject oneself to painful emotions? To emotions created by an imaginary cause and therefore impelling you to no action. I like vivid emotions, but I seek them in real life, in society, in travelling, in business, but above all in political business. There is no happiness comparable to political success, when your own excitement is justified by the magnitude of the questions at issue, and is doubled and redoubled by the sympathy of your supporters. Having enjoyed that, I am ashamed of being excited by the visionary sorrows of heroes and heroines.
‘I had a friend,’ he continued, ‘a Benedictine, who is now ninety-seven. He was, therefore, about thirteen when Louis XVI. began to reign. He is a man of talents and knowledge, has always lived in the world, has attended to all that he has seen and heard, and is still unimpaired in mind, and so strong in body that when I leave him he goes down to embrace me, after the fashion of the eighteenth century, at the bottom of his staircase.’
‘And what effect,’ I asked, ‘has the contemplation of seventy years of revolution produced in him? Does he look back, like Talleyrand, to the ancien régime as a golden age?’
‘He admits,’ said Tocqueville, ‘the material superiority of our own age, but he believes that, intellectually and morally, we are far inferior to our grandfathers. And I agree with him. Those seventy years of revolution have destroyed our courage, our hopefulness, our self-reliance, our public spirit, and, as respects by far the majority of the higher classes, our passions, except the vulgarest and most selfish ones—vanity and covetousness. Even ambition seems extinct. The men who seek power, seek it not for itself, not as the means of doing good to their country, but as a means of getting money and flatterers.
‘It is remarkable,’ he continued, ‘that women whose influence is generally greatest under despotisms, have none now. They have lost it, partly in consequence of the gross vulgarity of our dominant passions, and partly from their own nullity. They are like London houses, all built and furnished on exactly the same model, and that a most uninteresting one. Whether a girl is bred up at home or in a convent, she has the same masters, gets a smattering of the same accomplishments, reads the same dull books, and contributes to society the same little contingent of superficial information.
‘When a young lady comes out I know beforehand how her mother and her aunts will describe her. “Elle a les goûts simples. Elle est pieuse. Elle aime la campagne. Elle aime la lecture. Elle n’aime pas le bal. Elle n’aime pas le monde, elle y ira seulement pour plaire à sa mère.” I try sometimes to escape from these generalities, but there is nothing behind them.’
‘And how long,’ I asked, ‘does this simple, pious, retiring character last?’
‘Till the orange flowers of her wedding chaplet are withered,’ he answered. ‘In three months she goes to the messe d’une heure.’
‘What is the “messe d’une heure?” ’ I asked.
‘A priest,’ he answered, ‘must celebrate Mass fasting; and in strictness ought to do so before noon. But to accommodate fashionable ladies who cannot rise by noon, priests are found who will starve all the morning, and say Mass in the afternoon. It is an irregular proceeding, though winked at by the ecclesiastical authorities. Still to attend it is rather discreditable; it is a middle term between the highly meritorious practice of going to early Mass, and the scandalous one of never going at all.’
‘What was the education,’ I asked, ‘of women under the ancien régime?’
‘The convent,’ he answered.
‘It must have been better,’ I said, ‘than the present education, since the women of that time were superior to ours.’
‘It was so far better,’ he answered, ‘that it did no harm. A girl at that time was taught nothing. She came from the convent a sheet of white paper. Now her mind is a paper scribbled over with trash. The women of that time were thrown into a world far superior to ours, and with the sagacity, curiosity, and flexibility of French women, caught knowledge and tact and expression from the men.
‘I knew well,’ he continued, ‘Madame Récamier. Few traces of her former beauty then remained, but we were all her lovers and her slaves. The talent, labour, and skill which she wasted in her salon, would have gained and governed an empire. She was virtuous, if it be virtuous to persuade every one of a dozen men that you wish to favour him, though some circumstance always occurs to prevent your doing so. Every friend thought himself preferred. She governed us by little distinctions, by letting one man come five minutes before the others, or stay five minutes after. Just as Louis XIV. raised one courtier to the seventh heaven by giving him the bougeoir, and another by leaning on his arm, or taking his shirt from him.
‘She said little, but knew what each man’s fort was, and placed from time to time a mot which led him to it. If anything were peculiarly well said, her face brightened. You saw that her attention was always active and always intelligent.
‘And yet I doubt whether she really enjoyed conversation. Tenir salon was to her a game, which she played well, and almost always successfully, but she must sometimes have been exhausted by the effort. Her salon was perhaps pleasanter to us than it was to herself.
‘One of the last,’ he continued, ‘of that class of potentates was the Duchesse de Dino. Her early married life was active and brilliant, but not intellectually. It was not till about forty, when she had exhausted other excitements, that she took to bel esprit. But she performed her part as if she had been bred to it.’
This was our last conversation. I left Paris the next day, and we never met again.
Tocqueville, June 30, 1858.
I must complain a little of your silence, my dear Senior. I hear that before you left Paris you suffered a great deal from your throat. Is it true, or have you recovered?
I have not either much to boast of on the score of health since we parted. The illness which I had in Paris became still worse, and when I got a little better in that way I had a violent bronchial attack. I even began to spit blood, which had not happened to me for many years, and I am still almost reduced to silence. Still I am beginning to mend, and I hope, please God, to be able to speak to my friends when they visit me.
You are aware that I wished to induce my wife to accompany me to the South; but the length of the journey, the difficulties of transport, the heat, and indeed the state of my health, were reasons which she brought forward with so much force that we have remained here, and shall not leave till the end of September. We still hope that you and Miss Senior will join us the first week in that month. We shall be very happy to have you both with us. This is no compliment . . . I hope soon to be able to enjoy more frequent communication with my English friends. A steamboat is about to run from Cherbourg to the coast of England. We shall then be able to visit each other as neighbours (voisiner).
Between ourselves, I do not think that the events in England during the last six months are of a nature to raise the reputation of Parliamentary Government in the rest of the world. A bientôt!
A. de Tocqueville.
Kensington, July 5, 1858.
If I had written to you three days ago, I should have talked of the pleasure which my daughter and I expected from our visit to Tocqueville. But our plans are changed. Edward Ellice is going to pay a last visit to America, and has begged me to accompany him. He is a great proprietor in both America and Canada—knows everybody in both countries, and is besides a most able and interesting companion. So I have accepted the proposal, and start on the 30th of this month for Boston. We shall return in the beginning of November.
I am very sorry to lose the visit to Normandy, but I trust that it is only deferred.
We are grieved to hear that neither you nor Madame de Tocqueville are as well as your friends could wish you to be.
My grippe, after lasting for three months, has gradually subsided, and I look to the voyage to America as a cure for all remains of it.
I have most punctually carried your remembrances to all the persons honoured by being inscribed on your card.
Though I have often seen Gladstone, it has always been among many other persons, and he has been so full of talk, that I have never been able to allude to your subject. I mentioned it to Mrs. Gladstone on Saturday last: she said that there was not a person in all France whom her husband so much admired and venerated as you—therefore, if there was any appearance of neglect, it could have arisen only from hurry or mistake. I shall see him again on Thursday, when we are going all together to a rehearsal of Ristori’s, and I will talk to him: we shall there be quiet.
Things here are in a very odd state. The Government is supported by the Tories because it calls itself Tory, and by the Whigs and Radicals because it obeys them. On such terms it may last for an indefinite time.
Kindest regards from us all to you both.
N. W. Senior.
August 2, 1858.
I ought, as you know, to be on the Atlantic by this time; but I was attacked, ten days ago, with lumbar neuralgia, which they are trying, literally, to rub away. If I am quite well on the 13th, I shall go on the 14th to America.
I was attacked at Sir John Boileau’s, where I spent some days with the Guizots, Mrs. Austin, and Stanley and Lord John Russell.
Guizot is in excellent spirits, and, what is rare in an ex-premier, dwells more on the present and the future than on the past. Mrs. Austin is placid and discursive.
Lord John seems to me well pleased with the present state of affairs—which he thinks, I believe with reason, will bring him back to power. He thinks that Malmesbury and Disraeli are doing well, and praises much the subordinates of the Government.
Considering that no one believes Lord Derby to be wise, or Disraeli to be either wise or honest, it is marvellous that they get on as well as they do. The man who has risen most is Lord Stanley, and, as he has the inestimable advantage of youth, I believe him to be predestined to influence our fortunes long.
The world, I think, is gradually coming over to an opinion, which, when I maintained it thirty years ago, was treated as a ridiculous paradox—that India is and always has been a great misfortune to us; and, that if it were possible to get quit of it, we should be richer and stronger.
But it is clear that we are to keep it, at least for my life.
Kindest regards from us all to you and Madame de Tocqueville.
N. W. Senior.
Tocqueville, August 21, 1858.
I hear indirectly that you are extremely ill. Your letter told me only that you were suffering from neuralgia which you hoped to be rid of in a few days, but Mrs. Grote informs me that the malady continues and has even assumed a more serious character.
If you could write or dictate a few lines to me, you would please me much.
I am inconsolable for the failure of your American journey. I expected the most curious results from it. I hoped that your journal would enable me once more to understand the present state of a country which has so changed since I saw it that I feel that I now know nothing of it. What a blessing, however, that you had not started! What would have become of you if the painful attack from which you are suffering had seized you 2,000 miles away from home, and in the midst of that agitated society where no one has time to be ill or to think of those who are ill? It must be owned that Fortune has favoured you by sending you this illness just at the moment of your departure instead of ten days later.
I have been much interested by your visit to Sir John Boileau. You saw there M. Guizot in one of his best lights. The energy with which he stands up under the pressure of age and of ill-fortune, and is not only resigned in his new situation, but as vigorous, as animated, and as cheerful as ever, shows a character admirably tempered and a pride which nothing will bend.
I do not so well understand the cheerfulness of Lord John Russell. For the spectacle now exhibited by England, in which a party finds no difficulty in maintaining itself in power by carrying into practice ideas which it has always opposed, and by relying for support on its natural enemies, is not of a nature to raise the reputation of your institutions, or of your public men. I should have a great deal more to say to you on this and other subjects if I were not afraid of tiring you. I leave off, therefore, by assuring you that we are longing to hear of your recovery. Remembrances, &c.
A. de Tocqueville.
Cannes, December 12, 1858.
I wish, my dear friend, to reassure you myself on the false reports which have been spread regarding my health. Far from finding myself worse than when we arrived, I am already much better.
I am just now an invalid who takes his daily walks of two hours in the mountains after eating an excellent breakfast. I am not, however, well. If I were I should not long remain a citizen of Cannes.
I have almost renounced the use of speech, and consequently the society of human beings; which is all the more sad as my wife, my sole companion, is herself very unwell, not dangerously, but enough to make me anxious. When I say my sole companion, I am wrong, for my eldest brother has had the kindness to shut himself up with us for a month.
Adieu, dear Senior. A thousand kind remembrances from us to all your party.
A. de Tocqueville.
Cannes, March 15, 1859.
You say, my dear Senior, in the letter which I have just received, that I like to hear from my friends, not to write to them. It is true that I delight in the letters of my friends, especially of my English friends; but it is a calumny to say that I do not like to answer them. It is true that I am in your debt: one great cause is, that a man who lives at Cannes knows nothing of what is passing. My solitary confinement, which is bad enough in every way, makes me a bad correspondent, by depressing my spirits and rendering every exertion painful.
Mrs. Grote, in a very kind and interesting letter, which I received from her yesterday, says, that Lord Brougham, on his late arrival in London, gave a lamentable description of my health. If he confined himself to January, he was right. It is impossible to exaggerate my sufferings during that month. But, since that time, all has changed, as if from day to night, or rather from night to day. To talk now of what I was in January is like making a speech about the Spanish marriages.
I am grieved to find that you have suffered so much this year from bronchitis. I fear that your larynx can scarcely endure an English winter. But it is very hard to be obliged to expatriate oneself every year. I fear, however, that such must be my fate for some winters to come, and the pain with which I anticipate it makes me sympathise more acutely with you.
We know not, as yet, whether we are to have peace or war. Whichever it be, a mortal blow has struck the popularity of Louis Napoleon. What maintained him was the belief that he was the protector of our material interests: interests to which we now sacrifice all others. The events of the last month show, with the utmost vividness, that these very interests may be endangered by the arbitrary and irrational will of a despot. The feelings, therefore, which were his real support are now bitterly hostile to him.
I feel, in short, that a considerable change in our Government is approaching.
Even our poor Corps législatif, a week ago, refused to take into consideration the Budget, until it was informed whether it were to be a war budget or a peace budget. Great was the fury of those who represented the Government. They exclaimed that the Chamber misapprehended its jurisdiction, and that it had nothing to do with political questions. The Chamber, however, or rather its committee on the Budget, held its ground, and extorted from the Government some explanations.
Adieu, my dear Senior. Say everything that is kind to the Grotes, the Reeves, the Lewises—in short, to all our common friends, and believe in the sincerity of my friendship.
A. de. Tocqueville.
[This was M. de Tocqueville’s last letter to Mr. Senior. He died on the 16th of April.—Ed.]
April 25, 1859.
I was in the country, and it was only last Friday, as I was passing through London on my way to Paris, that I heard of the irreparable loss that we, indeed that France and Europe, have suffered.
It cannot alleviate your distress to be told how universal and deep is the sympathy with it—quite as much in England as in France.
It has thrown a gloom over society, not only over that portion which had the happiness and the honour of intimacy with M. A. de Tocqueville, but even of his acquaintances, and of those too whose acquaintance was only with his works.
I have, as you know, been for about a year, the depositary of a large packet confided to me by M. de Tocqueville last spring. About six months ago he begged me to return it to him, in Paris, when I had a safe opportunity. No such opportunity offered itself, so that the packet remains in my library awaiting your orders.
Since I began this letter I have been informed by M. de Corcelle that you are likely to be soon in Paris. I shall not venture to send it by the post, lest it should cross you on the road.
I shall anxiously inquire as to your arrival, in the hope that you will allow one who most sincerely loved and admired your husband, morally and intellectually, to see you as soon as you feel yourself equal to it.
Believe me, my dear Madame de Tocqueville, with the truest sympathy, yours most truly,
Nassau W. Senior.
[Mr. Senior continued an active correspondence with Madame de Tocqueville, and we saw her whenever we were in Paris. Our long-promised visit to Tocqueville took place in 1861.—Ed.]
Tocqueville, Sunday, August 11, 1861.—We left Paris on Saturday evening, got to Valognes by the Cherbourg railway by six the next morning, and were furnished there with a good carriage and horses, which took us, and our servants and luggage, in three hours to Tocqueville.
Valognes has been immortalised by Le Sage in Turcaret. It is a town of about 6,000 inhabitants, built of granite, and therefore little altered from what it was 200 years ago. Over many of the doors are the armorial bearings of the provincial nobility who made it a small winter capital: the practice is not wholly extinct. I asked who was the inhabitant of an imposing old house. ‘M. de Néridoze,’ answered our landlady, ‘d’une très-haute noblesse.’ I went over one in which Madame de Tocqueville thinks of passing the winter. It is of two stories. The ground floor given up to kitchen, laundry, and damp-looking servants’ rooms; the first floor in this form:—
The longer side looks into the street, the shorter, which is to be Madame de Tocqueville’s bedroom, into a small garden.
August 11.—At Tocqueville we find M. and Madame de Beaumont, their second son—a charming boy of ten years old, and Ampère.
It is eleven years since I was here. Nothing has been done to the interior of the house. This is about the plan of ground floor.
The first floor corresponds to the ground floor, except that on the western sides a passage runs, into which the library, which is over the drawing-room, and the bedrooms open. The second consists of garrets. My room is on the first floor of the eastern tower, with deep windows looking south and east. The room dedicated by Tocqueville to Ampère is above me. Creepers in great luxuriance cover the walls up to the first floor windows. The little park consists of from thirty to forty acres, well wooded and traversed by an avenue in this form, leading from the road to the front of the house. To the west the ground rises to a wild common commanding the sea, the lighthouses of Gatteville, Barfleur, La Hogue, and a green plain covered with woods and hedgerow trees, and studded with church
towers and spires of the picturesque forms of the eleventh, twelfth, and thirteenth centuries. It has no grand features, except the sea and the rocky coast of the Cherbourg peninsula, but it is full of variety and beauty. I can understand Tocqueville’s delight in the house and in the country. The weather is perfect; the thermometer in my bedroom, the walls of which are about six feet thick, is 71°, in the sun it is 80°; but there is a strong breeze.
August 12th.—Madame de Beaumont, my daughter, and Ampère drove, and Beaumont and I walked, to the coast about three miles and a half off. Our road ran through the gay wooded plain which I have described.
We talked of Italian affairs.
‘Up to the annexation of Tuscany,’ said Beaumont, ‘I fully approve of all that has been done. Parma, Modena, and Tuscany were eager to join Piedmont. During the anxious interval of six months, while the decision of Louis Napoleon was doubtful, the conduct of the Tuscans was above all praise. Perhaps the general wish of the people of Romagna justified the Piedmontese in seizing it. Though there the difficult question as to the expediency of stripping the Pope of his temporal power rises.
‘Perhaps, too, the facility with which Sicily submitted was a justification. But I cannot pardon the seizure of Naples. It is clear to me that if the Neapolitans had been left to themselves they would have driven out the Garibaldians. Garibaldi himself felt this: nothing but a conviction of its necessity would have induced him to call for the assistance of the Piedmontese. I do not believe that in defiance of all international law—indeed in defiance of all international morality—Cavour would have given that assistance if the public opinion of Piedmont had allowed him to refuse it. And what is the consequence? A civil war which is laying waste the country. The Piedmontese call their adversaries brigands. There are without doubt among them men whose motive is plunder, but the great majority are in arms in defence of the independence of their country. They are no more brigands now than they were when they resisted King Joseph. The Piedmontese are as much foreigners to them as the French were: as much hated and as lawfully resisted. They may be conquered, they probably will be conquered. An ignorant corrupt population, inhabiting a small country, unsupported by its higher classes—its fleet, its fortresses, and all the machinery of its government, in the hands of its enemies—cannot permanently resist; but the war will be atrocious, and the more cruel on the part of Piedmont because it is unjust.’
‘You admit,’ I said, ‘that the higher classes side with Piedmont?’
‘I admit that,’ he answered; ‘but you must recollect how few they are in number, and how small is the influence which they exercise. In general, I detest universal suffrage, I detest democracy and everything belonging to it, but if it were possible to obtain honestly and truly the opinion of the people, I would ask it and obey it. I believe that it would be better to allow the Neapolitans, ignorant and debased as they are, to choose their own sovereign and their own form of government, than to let them be forced by years of violence to become the unwilling subjects of Piedmont.’
‘Do you believe,’ I said, ‘that it is possible to obtain through universal suffrage the honest and true opinion of a people?’
‘Not,’ he answered, ‘if the Government interferes. I believe that in Savoy not one person in fifty was in favour of annexation to France. But this is an extreme case.
‘The Bourbons are deservedly hated and despised by the Neapolitans, the Piedmontese are not despised, but are hated still more intensely. There is no native royal stock. The people are obviously unfit for a Republic. It would be as well, I think, to let them select a King as to impose one on them. The King whom Piedmont, without a shadow of right, is imposing on them is the one whom they most detest.’
‘If I go to Rome,’ I asked, ‘in the winter, whom shall I find there?’
‘I think,’ he answered, ‘that it will be the Piedmontese. The present state of things is full of personal danger to Louis Napoleon. As his policy is purely selfish, he will, at any sacrifice, put an end to it. That sacrifice may be the unity of Catholicism. The Pope, no longer a sovereign, will be under the influence of the Government in whose territory he resides, and the other Catholic Powers may follow the example of Greece and of Russia, and create each an independent Spiritual Government. It would be a new excitement for Celui-ci to make himself Head of the Church.’
‘Assassinations,’ I said, ‘even when successful have seldom produced important and permanent effects, but Orsini’s failure has influenced and is influencing the destinies of Europe.’
‘If I were an Italian liberal,’ said Beaumont, ‘I would erect a statue to him. The policy and almost the disposition of Louis Napoleon have been changed by the attentat. He has become as timid as he once was intrepid. He began by courting the Pope and the clergy. He despised the French assassins, who were few in number and unconnected, and who had proved their unskilfulness on Louis Philippe; but Orsini showed him that he had to elect between the Pope and the Austrians on one side, and the Carbonari on the other. He has chosen the alliance of the Carbonari. He has made himself their tool, and will continue to do so.
‘They are the only enemies whom he fears, at least for the present.
‘France is absolutely passive. The uneducated masses from whom he holds his power are utterly indifferent to liberty, and he has too much sense to irritate them by wanton oppression. They do not know that he is degrading the French character, they do not even feel that he is wasting the capital of France, they do not know that he is adding twenty millions every year to the national debt. They think of his loans merely as investments, and the more profligately extravagant are the terms and the amount, the better they like them.’
‘Ten years ago,’ I said, ‘the cry that I heard was, “Ça ne durera pas.” ’
‘That was my opinion,’ he answered; ‘indeed, it was the opinion of everybody. I thought the Duc de Broglie desponding when he gave it three years. We none of us believed that the love of liberty was dead in France.’
‘It is not,’ I said, ‘dead, for among the higher classes it still lives, and among the lower it never existed.’
‘Perhaps,’ he answered, ‘our great mistakes were that we miscalculated the courage of the educated classes, and the degree in which universal suffrage would throw power into the hands of the uneducated. Not a human being in my commune reads a newspaper or indeed reads anything: yet it contains 300 electors. In the towns there is some knowledge and some political feeling, but for political purposes they are carefully swamped by being joined to uneducated agricultural districts.
‘Still I think I might enter the Corps législatif for our capital Le Mans. Perhaps at a general election twenty liberals might come in. But what good could they do? The opposition in the last session strengthened Louis Napoleon. It gave him the prestige of liberality and success.’
‘You think him, then,’ I said, ‘safe for the rest of his life?’
‘Nothing,’ he answered, ‘is safe in France, and the thing most unsafe is a Government. Our caprices are as violent as they are sudden. They resemble those of a half-tamed beast of prey, which licks its keeper’s hand to-day, and may tear him to-morrow. But if his life be not so long as to enable the fruits of his follies to show themselves in their natural consequences—unsuccessful war, or defeated diplomacy, or bankruptcy, or heavily increased taxation—he may die in the Tuileries.
‘But I infer from his conduct that he thinks an insurrection against his tyranny possible, and that he is preparing to meet it by a popular war—that is to say, by a war with England.
‘I found my opinion not so much on the enormous maritime preparations, as on the long-continued systematic attempts to raise against England our old national enmity. All the provincial papers are in the hands of the Government. The constantly recurring topic of every one of them is, the perfidy and the malignity of England. She is described as opposing all our diplomacy, as resisting all our aggrandisement, as snarling and growling at our acquisition of Savoy, as threatening us if we accept Sardinia, as trying to drive the Pope from Rome because we protect him, as trying to separate the Danubian provinces because we wish to unite them, as preventing the Suez Canal because we proposed it—in short, on every occasion and in every part of the world as putting herself in our way. To these complaints, which are not without foundation, are added others of which our ignorant people do not see the absurdity. They are told that the enormous conscription, and the great naval expenditure, are rendered necessary by the aggressive armaments of England. That you are preparing to lay waste all our coasts, to burn our arsenals, to subsidise against us a new Coalition, and perhaps lead its armies again to Paris.
‘The Emperor’s moderation, his love of England, and his love of peace, are said to be the only obstacles to a violent rupture. But they are prepared for these obstacles at length giving way. “The Emperor,” they are told, “is getting tired of his insolent, and hostile, and quarrelsome allies. He is getting tired of a peace which is more expensive than a war. Some day the cup will flow over. ‘Il en finira avec eux,’ will dictate a peace in London, will free the oppressed Irish nationality, will make England pay the expense of the war, and then having conquered the only enemy that France can fear, will let her enjoy, for the first time, real peace, a reduced conscription, and low taxation.”
‘Such is the language of all the provincial papers and of all the provincial authorities, and it has its effect. There never was a time when a war with England would be so popular. He does not wish for one, he knows that it would be extremely dangerous, but he is accustomed to play for great stakes, and if submitting to any loss of his popularity, or to any limitation of his power is the alternative, he will run the risk. He keeps it, as his last card, in reserve, to be played only in extremity, but to be ready when that extremity has arrived.’
Tuesday, August 13.—We drove to La Prenelle, a church at the point of a high table-land running from Tocqueville towards the bay of La Hogue, and commanding nearly all the Cherbourg peninsula. On three sides of us was the sea, separated from us by a wooded, well-inhabited plain, whose churches rose among the trees, and containing the towns and lofty lighthouses of Gatteville, Barfleur, Vast, and La Hogue. We sat on the point from whence James II. saw the battle of La Hogue, and admired the courage of his English rebels.
Ampère has spent much of his life in Rome, and is engaged on a work in which its history is to be illustrated by its monuments.
We talked of the Roman people.
‘Nothing,’ said Ampère, ‘can be more degraded than the higher classes. With the exception of Antonelli, who is charming, full of knowledge, intelligence, and grace, and of the Duke of Sermoneta, who is almost equally distinguished, there is scarcely a noble of my acquaintance who has any merits, moral or intellectual.
‘They are surrounded by the finest ancient and modern art, and care nothing for it. The eminent men of every country visit Rome—the Romans avoid them for they have nothing to talk to them about.
‘Politics are of course unsafe, literature they have none. They never read. A cardinal told me something which I doubted, and I asked him where he had found it. “In certi libri,” he answered.
‘Another, who has a fine old library, begged me to use it. “You will do the room good,” he said. “No one has been there for years.” Even scandal and gossip must be avoided under an Ecclesiastical Government.
‘They never ride, they never shoot, they never visit their estates, they give no parties; if it were not for the theatre and for their lawsuits they would sink into vegetable life.’
‘Sermoneta,’ I said, ‘told me that many of his lawsuits were hereditary, and would probably descend to his son.’
‘If Sermoneta,’ said Ampère, ‘with his positive intelligence and his comparative vigour, cannot get through them, what is to be expected from others? They have, however, one merit, one point of contact with the rest of the world—their hatred of their Government. They seem to perceive, not clearly, for they perceive nothing clearly, but they dimly see, that the want of liberty is a still greater misfortune to the higher classes than to the lower.
‘But the people are a fine race. Well led they will make excellent soldiers. They have the cruelty of their ancestors, perhaps I ought to say of their predecessors, but they have also their courage.’
‘They showed,’ said Beaumont, ‘courage in the defence of Rome, but courage behind walls is the commonest of all courages. No training could make the Spaniards stand against us in the open field, but they were heroes in Saragossa. The caprices of courage and cowardice are innumerable. The French have no moral courage, they cannot stand ridicule, they cannot encounter disapprobation, they bow before oppression; a French soldier condemned by a court-martial cries for mercy like a child. The same man in battle appears indifferent to death. The Spaniard runs away without shame, but submits to death when it is inevitable without terror. None of the prisoners taken on either side in the Spanish civil war asked for pardon.’
‘Indifference to life,’ I said, ‘and indifference to danger have little in common. General Fénelon told me that in Algeria he had more than once to preside at an execution. No Arab showed any fear. Once there were two men, one of whom was to be flogged, the other to be shot. A mistake was made and they were going to shoot the wrong man. It was found out in time, but neither of the men seemed to care about it; yet they would probably have run away in battle. The Chinese are not brave, but you can hire a man to be beheaded in your place.’
‘So,’ said Ampère, ‘you could always hire a substitute in our most murderous wars, when in the course of a year a regiment was killed twice over. It was hiring a man, not indeed to be beheaded, but to be shot for you.’
‘The destructiveness,’ said Beaumont, ‘of a war is only gradually known. It is found out soonest in the villages when the deaths of the conscripts are heard of, or are suspected from their never returning; but in the towns, from which the substitutes chiefly come, it may be long undiscovered. Nothing is known but what is officially published, and the Government lies with an audacity which seems always to succeed. If it stated the loss of men in a battle at one half of the real number, people would fancy that it ought to be doubled, and so come near to the truth; but it avows only one-tenth or only one-twentieth, and then the amount of falsehood is underestimated.’
‘Marshal Randon,’ I said, ‘told me that the whole loss in the Italian campaign was under 7,000 men.’
‘That is a good instance,’ said Beaumont. ‘It certainly was 50,000, perhaps 70,000. But I am guilty of a délit in saying so, and you will be guilty of a délit if you repeat what I have said. I remember the case of a man in a barber’s shop in Tours, to whom the barber said that the harvest was bad. He repeated the information, and was pubished by fine and imprisonment for having spread des nouvelles alarmantes. Truth is no excuse; in fact it is an aggravation, for the truer the news the more alarming.’
‘In time of peace,’ I asked, ‘what proportion of the conscripts return after their six years of service?’
‘About three-quarters,’ answered Beaumont.
‘Then,’ I said, ‘as you take 100,000 conscripts every year even in peace, you lose 25,000 of your best young men every year?’
‘Certainly,’ said Beaumont.
‘And are the 75,000 who return improved or deteriorated?’ I asked.
‘Improved,’ said Ampère; ‘they are dégourdis, they are educated, they submit to authority, they know how to shift for themselves.’
‘Deteriorated,’ said Beaumont. ‘A garrison life destroys the habits of steady industry, it impairs skill. The returned conscript is more vicious and less honest than the peasant who has not left his village.’
‘And what was the loss,’ I asked, ‘in the late war?’
‘At least twice as great,’ said Beaumont, ‘as it is in peace. Half of those who were taken perished. The country would not have borne the prolongation of the Crimean War.’
‘These wars,’ I said, ‘were short and successful. A war with England can scarcely be short, and yet you think that he plans one?’
‘I think,’ said Beaumont, ‘that he plans one, but only in the event of his encountering any serious difficulty at home. You must not infer from the magnitude of his naval expenditure that he expects one.
‘You look at the expense of those preparations, and suppose that so great a sacrifice would not be made in order to meet an improbable emergency. But expense is no sacrifice to him. He likes it. He has the morbid taste for it which some tyrants have had for blood, which his uncle had for war. Then he is incapable of counting. When he lived at Arenenburg he used to give every old soldier who visited him an order on Viellard his treasurer for money. In general the chest was empty. Viellard used to remonstrate but without effect. The day perhaps after his orders had been dishonoured he gave new ones.’
‘Is it true,’ I asked, ‘that the civil list is a couple of years’ income in debt?’
‘I know nothing about it,’ said Beaumont; ‘in fact, nobody knows anything about anything, but it is highly probable. Everybody who asks for anything gets it, everybody is allowed to waste, everybody is allowed to rob, every folly of the Empress is complied with. Fould raised objections, and was dismissed.
‘She is said to have a room full of revolutionary relics: there is the bust of Marie Antoinette, the nose broken at one of the sacks of the Tuileries. There is a picture of Simon beating Louis XVII. Her poor child has been frightened by it, and she is always dwelling on the dangers of her position.’
‘So,’ I said, ‘did Queen Adelaide—William IV.’s Queen. From the passing of the Reform Bill she fully expected to die on the scaffold.’
‘There is more reason,’ he answered, ‘for the Empress’s fears.’
‘Not,’ I said, ‘if she fears the scaffold. Judicial murder, at least in that form, is out of fashion. Cayenne and Lambressa are your guillotines, and the Empress is safe from them.’
‘But there are other modes of violent death,’ he answered; ‘from one of which she escaped almost by miracle.’
‘How did she behave,’ I asked, ‘at the attentat?’
‘Little is known,’ he answered, ‘except that the Emperor said to her, as he led her upstairs to her box: “Allons, il faut faire notre métier.” ’
‘Then she is disturbed by religious fears. The little prince has been taught to say to his father every morning: “Papa, ne faites pas de mal à mon parrain.” The Pope was his godfather.’
‘If the Emperor dies, the real power will pass into the hands of Prince Napoleon. And very dangerous hands they will be. He has more talent than the Emperor, and longer views. Louis Napoleon is a revolutionist from selfishness. Prince Napoleon is selfish enough, but he has also passion. He detests everything that is venerable, everything that is established or legal.
‘There is little value now for property or for law, though the Government professes to respect them. What will it be when the Government professes to hate them?’
Wednesday, August 14.—We talked at breakfast of Rome.
‘Is there,’ said Beaumont to Ampère, ‘still an Inquisition at Rome?’
‘There is,’ said Ampère, ‘but it is torpid. It punishes bad priests, but does little else.’
‘If a Roman,’ I asked, ‘were an avowed infidel, would it take notice of him?’
‘Probably not,’ said Ampère, ‘but his curé might—not for his infidelity, but for his avowing it. The curé, who has always the powers of a commissaire de police, might put him in prison if he went into a café and publicly denied the Immaculate Conception, or if he neglected going to church or to confession: but the Inquisition no longer cares about opinions.’
‘Is there much infidelity,’ I asked, ‘in Rome?’
‘Much,’ said Ampère, ‘among the laity. The clergy do not actively disbelieve. They go through their functions without ever seriously inquiring whether what they have to teach be true or false. No persons were more annoyed by the Mortara business than the clergy, with the exception of Antonelli. He hates and fears the man who set it on foot, the Archbishop of Bologna, and therefore was glad to see him expose himself, and lose all hope of the Secretaryship, but he took care to prevent the recurrence of such a scandal. He revived an old law prohibiting Jews from keeping Christian nurses. But he could scarcely order restitution. According to the Church it would have been giving the child to the Devil, and, what is worse, robbing God of him. The Pope’s piety is selfish. His great object is his own salvation. He would not endanger that, to confer any benefit upon, or to avert any evil from Rome; or indeed from the whole world. This makes him difficult to negotiate with. If anything is proposed to him which his confessor affirms to be dangerous to his soul, he listens to no arguments. As for Mortara himself, he is a poor creature. A friend of mine went to see him in his convent. All that he could get from him was:
‘ “Sono venuti i Carabinieri.”
‘ “And what did they do to you?”
‘ “M’hanno portato quì.”
‘ “What more?”
‘ ‘M’hanno dato pasticci; erano molto buoni.”
‘What is most teasing,’ continued Ampère, ‘in the Roman Government is not so much its active oppression as its torpidity. It hates to act. An Englishman had with great difficulty obtained permission to light Rome with gas. He went to the Government in December, and told them that everything was ready, and that the gas would be lighted on the 1st of January.
‘ “Could you not,” they answered, “put it off till April?”
‘ “But it is in winter,” he replied; “that it is wanted. Every thing is ready. Why should we wait?”
‘ “It is a new thing,” they replied; “people will be frightened. It may have consequences. At least put it off till March.”
‘ “But they will be as much frightened in March,” he replied.
‘ “If it must be done,” they said, “as a kindness to His Holiness and to us put it off till February.”
‘There is, however, one sort of oppression which even we should find it difficult to tolerate.
‘A Monsignore has a young friend without money, but an excellent Catholic and an excellent politician, a fervid believer in the Immaculate Conception and in the excellence of the Papal Government. He wishes to reward such admirable opinions: but the Pope has little to give. Monsignore looks out for some young heiress, sends for her father, describes his pious and loyal protégé, and proposes marriage. Her father objects—says that his daughter cannot afford to marry a poor man, or that she does not wish to marry at all—or that he or she has some other preference.
‘Monsignore insists. He assures the father that what he is proposing is most favourable to the salvation of his daughter, that he suggests it principally for the benefit of her soul, and that the father’s objections are inspired by the Evil One. The father breaks off the conversation and goes home. He finds that his daughter has disappeared. He returns furious to Monsignore, is received with the utmost politeness and is informed that his daughter is perfectly safe under the protection of a cardinal who himself did her the honour of fetching her in his gilded coach. “You have only,” the Monsignore says, “to be reasonable, and she shall be returned to you.”
‘The father flies to the cardinal.
‘The same politeness and the same answer.
‘ “Do not oppose,” he is told, “the will of the Pope, who, in this matter, seeks only your daughter’s happiness here and hereafter. She is now with me. If you will give up your sinful obstinacy she shall be restored to you to-day. If not, it will be our duty to place her in a convent, where she will be taken the utmost care of, but she will not leave it except to marry the person whom His Holiness thinks most fitted to promote the welfare of her soul.”
‘I have known several cases in which this attempt has been made. With such timid slaves as the Roman nobility it always succeeds.’
Thursday, August 15.—This is the fête of St. Louis—the great fête of Tocqueville. Madame de Tocqueville and Madame de Beaumont spent much of the morning in church.
Beaumont and his son walked to the coast to bathe. Minnie, Ampère, and I strolled among the deep shady lanes of the plateau above the castle. Throughout Normandy the fields are small and are divided by mounds planted with trees. The farmhouses, and even the cottages, are built of primitive rock, granite, or old red sandstone. At a distance, peeping out of the trees that surround them, they look pretty, but they have more than the usual French untidiness. The out-houses are roofless, the farmyards are full of pools and dung heaps, which often extend into the road; and the byroads themselves are quagmires when they do not consist of pointed stones. I was struck by the paucity of the children and the absence of new houses. The population of Normandy is diminishing.
We conversed on the subject of Italy.
‘If we are in Rome next winter,’ I asked, ‘shall we find the French there?’
‘I think not,’ said Ampère; ‘I think that you will find only the Piedmontese.
‘Every day that Louis Napoleon holds Rome is a day of danger to him, a danger slight perhaps now, but serious if the occupation be prolonged. The Anti-papal party, and it includes almost all that are liberal and all that are energetic, are willing to give him time, but not an indefinite time. They are quiet only because they trust him. He is a magician who has sold himself to the Devil. The Devil is patient, but he will not be cheated. The Carbonari will support Louis Napoleon as long as he is doing their work, and will allow him to do it in his own way and to take his own time, as long as they believe he is doing it. But woe to him if they believe that he is deceiving them. I suspect that they are becoming impatient, and I suspect too, that he is becoming impatient. This quarrel between Mérode and Goyon is significative. I do not believe that Goyon used the words imputed to him. We shall probably keep Civita Vecchia, but we shall give up Rome to the Piedmontese.’
‘And will the Pope,’ I asked, ‘remain?’
‘Not this Pope,’ said Ampère, ‘but his successor. Nor do I see the great evil of the absence of the Pope from Rome. Popes have often been absent before, sometimes for long periods.’
‘Most of my French friends,’ I said, ‘are opposed to Italian Unity as mischievous to France.’
‘I do not believe,’ he answered, ‘in the submission of Naples to this Piedmontese dynasty, but I shall be delighted to see all Italy north of the Neapolitan territory united.
‘I do not think that we have anything to fear from the kingdom of Italy. It is as likely to be our friend as to be our enemy. But the Neapolitans, even if left to themselves, would not willingly give up their independence, and Celui-ci is trying to prevent their doing so.’
‘What do they wish,’ I asked, ‘and what does he wish?’
‘I believe,’ he answered, ‘that their wishes are only negative.
‘They do not wish to recall the Bourbons, and they are resolved not to keep the Piedmontese. His wish I believe to be to put his cousin there. Prince Napoleon himself refused Tuscany. It is too small, but he would like Naples, and Louis Napoleon would be glad to get rid of him. What would England say?’
‘If we believed,’ I said, ‘in the duration of a Bonaparte dynasty in France, we should, of course, object to the creation of one in Naples. But if, as we think it probable, the Bonapartists have to quit France, I do not see how we should be injured by their occupying the throne of Naples.
‘I should object to them if I were a Neapolitan. All their instincts are despotic, democratic, and revolutionary. But even they are better than the late king was. What chance have the Murats?’
‘None,’ said Ampère. ‘They have spoiled their game, if they had a game, by their precipitation. The Emperor has disavowed them, the Neapolitans do not care for them. The Prince de Leuchtenberg, grandson of Eugène Beauharnais, has been talked of. He is well connected, related to many of the reigning families of the Continent, and is said to be intelligent and well educated.’
‘If Naples,’ I said, ‘is to be detached from the kingdom of Italy, Sicily ought to be detached from Naples. There is quite as much mutual antipathy.’
‘Would you like to take it?’ he asked.
‘Heaven forbid!’ I answered. ‘It would be another Corfu on a larger scale. The better we governed them, the more they would hate us. The only chance for them is to have a king of their own.’
August 15.—In the evening Ampère read to us a comedy called ‘Beatrix,’ by a writer of some reputation, and a member of the Institut.
It was very bad, full of exaggerated sentiments, forced situations, and the cant of philanthropic despotism.
An actress visits the court of a German grand duke. He is absent. His mother, the duchess, receives her as an equal. The second son falls in love with her at first sight and wishes to marry her. She is inclined to consent, when another duchy falls in, the elder duke resigns to his brother, he becomes king, presses their marriage, his mother does not oppose, and thereupon Beatrix makes a speech, orders her horses, and drives off to act somewhere else.
Ampère reads admirably, but no excellence of reading could make such absurdities endurable. It was written for Ristori, who acted Beatrix in French with success.
Friday, August 16.—We talked at breakfast of 1793.
‘It is difficult,’ said Madame de Beaumont, ‘to believe that the French of that day were our ancestors.’
‘They resembled you,’ I said, ‘only in two things: in military courage, and in political cowardice.’
‘They had,’ she replied, ‘perhaps more passive courage than we have. My great-great-grandmother, my great-grandmother, and my great-aunt, were guillotined on the same day. My great-great-grandmother was ninety years old. When interrogated, she begged them to speak loud, as she was deaf. ‘Écrivez,’ said Fouquier Tinville, ‘que la citoyenne Noailles a conspiré sourdement contre la République.’ They were dragged to the Place de la République in the same tombereau, and sat waiting their turn on the same bench.
‘My great-aunt was young and beautiful. The executioner, while fastening her to the plank, had a rose in his mouth. The Abbé de Noailles, who was below the scaffold, disguised, to give them, at the risk of his life, a sign of benediction, was asked how they looked.
‘ “Comme si,’ he said, ‘elles allaient à la messe.” ’
‘The habit,’ said Ampère, ‘of seeing people die produces indifference even to one’s own death. You see that among soldiers. You see it in epidemics. But this indifference, or, to use a more proper word, this resignation, helped to prolong the Reign of Terror. If the victims had resisted, if, like Madame du Barry, they had struggled with the executioner, it would have excited horror.’
‘The cries of even a pig,’ said Madame de Beaumont, ‘make it disagreeable to kill it.’
‘Sanson,’ I said, ‘long survived the Revolution; he made a fortune and lived in retirement at Versailles. A lady was run away with between Versailles and Paris. An elderly man, at considerable risk, stopped her horse. She was very grateful, but could not get from him his name. At last she traced him, and found that it was Sanson.’
‘Sanson,’ said Beaumont, ‘may have been an honest man. Whenever a place of bourreau is vacant, there are thirty or forty candidates, and they always produce certificates of their extraordinary kindness and humanity. It seems to be the post most coveted by men eminent for their benevolence.’
‘How many have you?’ I asked.
‘Eighty-six,’ he answered. ‘One for each department.’
‘And how many executions?’
‘About one hundred a year in all France.’
‘And what is the salary?’
‘Perhaps a couple of thousand francs a year.’
‘Really,’ said Ampère, ‘it is one of the best parts of the patronage of the Minister of the Interior. M. le Bourreau gets more than a thousand francs for each operation.’
‘We pay by the piece,’ I said, ‘and find one operator enough for all England.’
‘A friend of mine,’ said Beaumont, had a remarkably good Swiss servant. His education was far above his station, and we could not find what had been his birth or his canton.
‘Suddenly he became agitated and melancholy, and at last told my friend that he must leave him, and why. His father was the hereditary bourreau of a Swiss canton. To the office was attached an estate, to be forfeited if the office were refused. He had resolved to take neither, and, to avoid being solicited, had left his country and changed his name. But his family had traced him, had informed him of his father’s death, and had implored him to accept the succession. He was the only son, and his mother and sisters would be ruined, if he allowed it to pass to the next in order of inheritance, a distant cousin. He had not been able to persist in his refusal.’
‘The husband of an acquaintance of mine,’ said Madame de Beaumont, ‘used to disappear for two or three hours every day. He would not tell her for what purpose. At last she found out that he was employed in the chambre noire, the department of the police by which letters passing through the post are opened. The duties were well paid, and she could not persuade him to give them up. They were on uneasy terms, when an accident threw a list of all the names of the employés in the chambre noire, into the hands of an opposition editor, who published them in his newspaper.
‘She then separated from him.’
‘If the Post-office,’ I said, ‘were not a Government monopoly, if everyone had a right to send his letters in the way that he liked best, there would be some excuse. But the State compels you, under severe penalties, to use its couriers, undertaking, not tacitly but expressly, to respect the secrecy of your correspondence, and then systematically violates it.’
‘I should have said,’ answered Ampère, ‘not expressly but tacitly.’
‘No,’ I replied; ‘expressly. Guizot, when Minister for Foreign Affairs, proclaimed from the tribune, that in France the secrecy of correspondence was, under all circumstances, inviolable. This has never been officially contradicted.
‘The English Post-office enters into no such engagements. Any letters may be legally opened, under an order from a Secretary of State.’
‘Are prisoners in England,’ asked Beaumont, ‘allowed to correspond with their friends?’
‘I believe,’ I answered, ‘that their letters pass through the Governor’s hands, and that he opens them, or not, at his discretion.’
‘Among the tortures,’ said Ampère, ‘which Continental despots delight to inflict on their state prisoners the privation of correspondence is one.’
‘In ordinary life,’ I said, ‘the educated endure inaction worse than the ignorant. ‘A coachman sits for hours on his box without feeling ennui. If his master had to sit quiet all that time, inside the carriage, he would tear his hair from impatience.
‘But the educated seem to tolerate the inactivity of imprisonment better than their inferiors. We find that our ordinary malefactors cannot endure solitary imprisonment for more than a year—seldom indeed so long. The Italian prisoners whom I have known, Zucchi, Borsieri, Poerio, Gonfalonieri, and Pellico, endured imprisonment lasting from ten to seventeen years without much injury to mind or body.’
‘The spirit of Pellico,’ said Madame de Beaumont, ‘was broken. When released, he gave himself up to devotion and works of charity. Perhaps the humility, resignation, and submission of his book made it still more mischievous to the Austrian Government. The reader’s indignation against those who could so trample on so unresisting a victim becomes fierce.’
‘If the Austrians,’ I said, ‘had been wise, they would have shot instead of imprisoning them. Their deaths would have been forgotten—their imprisonment has contributed much to the general odium which is destroying the Austrian Empire.’
‘It would have been wiser,’ said Beaumont, ‘but it would have been more merciful, and therefore it was not done. But you talk of all these men as solitarily imprisoned. Some of them had companions.’
‘Yes,’ I said, ‘but they complained that one permanent companion was worse than solitude. Gonfalonieri said, that one could not be in the same room, with the same man, a year without hating him.
‘One of the Neapolitan prisoners was chained for some time to a brigand. Afterwards the brigand was replaced by a gentleman. He complained bitterly of the change.
‘The brigand,’ said Minnie, ‘was his slave, the gentleman had a will of his own.’
‘How did M. de La Fayette,’ I asked Madame de Beaumont, ‘bear his five years’ imprisonment at Olmütz?’
‘His health,’ said Madame de Beaumont, ‘was good, but the miseries of his country and the sufferings of his wife made him very unhappy. When my grandmother came to him, it was two days before she had strength to tell him that all his and her family had perished. I was once at Olmütz, and saw the one room which they had inhabited. It was damp and dark. She asked to be allowed to leave it for a time for better medical treatment and change of air. It was granted only on the condition that she should never return. She refused. The rheumatic attacks which the state of the prison had produced, continued and increased: she was hopelessly ill when they were released—and died soon afterwards. The sense of wrong aggravated their sufferings, for their imprisonment was a gross and wanton violation of all law, international and municipal. My grandfather was not an Austrian subject; he had committed no offence against Austria. She seized him simply because he was a liberal, because his principles had made him the enemy of tyranny in America and in France; and because his birth and talents and reputation gave him influence. It was one of the brutal stupid acts of individual cruelty which characterise the Austrian despotism, and have done more to ruin it than a wider oppression—such a one, for instance, as ours, more mischievous, but more intelligent,—would have done.’
‘Freedom,’ said Ampère, ‘was offered to him on the mere condition of his not serving in the French army. At that time the Jacobins would have guillotined him, the Royalists would have forced duel after duel on him till they had killed him. It seemed impossible that he should ever be able to draw his sword for France. In fact he never was able. America offered him an asylum, honours, land, everything that could console an exile. But he refused to give up the chance, remote as it was, of being useful to his country, and remained a prisoner till he was delivered by Napoleon.’
‘He firmly believed,’ said Madame de Beaumont, ‘that if the Royal Family would have taken refuge with his army in 1791 he could have saved them, and probably the Monarchy. His army was then in his hands, a few months after the Jacobins had corrupted it.’
‘Two men,’ said Ampère, ‘Mirabeau and La Fayette, could have saved the Monarchy, and were anxious to do so. But neither the King nor the Queen would trust them.
‘Louis XVI. and Marie Antoinette are among the historical personages who have most influenced the destinies of the world. His dulness, torpidity and indecision, and her frivolity, narrow-minded prejudices and suspiciousness, are among the causes of our present calamities. They are among the causes of a state of things which has inflicted on us, and threatens to inflict on all Europe, the worst of all Governments—democratic despotism. A Government in which two wills only prevail—that of the ignorant, envious, ambitious, aggressive multitude, and that of the despot who, whatever be his natural disposition, is soon turned, by the intoxication of flattery and of universal power, into a capricious, fantastic, selfish participator in the worst passions of the worst portion of his subjects.’
‘Such a Government,’ I said, ‘may be called an anti-aristocracy. It excludes from power all those who are fit to exercise it.’
‘The consequence,’ said Beaumont, ‘is, that the qualities which fit men for power not being demanded, are not supplied. Our young men have no political knowledge or public spirit. Those who have a taste for the sciences cultivated in the military schools enter the army. The rest learn nothing.’
‘What do they do?’ I asked.
‘How they pass their time,’ said Madame de Beaumont, ‘is a puzzle to me. They do not read, they do not go into society—I believe that they smoke and play at dominos, and ride and bet at steeple-chases.
‘Those who are on home service in the army are not much better. The time not spent in the routine of their profession is sluggishly and viciously wasted. Algeria has been a God-send to us. There our young men have real duties to perform, and real dangers to provide against and to encounter. My son, who left St. Cyr only eighteen months ago, is stationed at Thebessa, 300 miles in the interior. He belongs to a bureau arabe, consisting of a captain, a lieutenant, and himself, and about forty spahis. He has to act as a judge, as an engineer, to settle the frontier between the province of Constantine and Tunis—in short, to be one of a small ruling aristocracy. This is the school which has furnished, and is furnishing, our best generals and administrators.’
We talked of the interior of French families.
‘The ties of relationship,’ I said, ‘seem to be stronger with you than they are with us. Cousinship with you is a strong bond, with us it is a weak one.’
‘The habit of living together,’ said Beaumont, ‘has perhaps much to do with the strength of our feelings of consanguinity. Our life is patriarchal. Grandfather, father, and grandson are often under the same roof. At the Grange thirty of the family were sometimes assembled at dinner. With you, the sons go off, form separate establishments, see little of their parents, still less of their cousins, and become comparatively indifferent to them.’
‘I remember,’ I said, ‘the case of an heir apparent of seventy; his father was ninety-five. One day the young man was very grumpy. They tried to find out what was the matter with him; at last he broke out, “Everybody’s father dies except mine.” ’
‘An acquaintance of mine,’ said Beaumont, ‘not a son, but a son-in-law, complained equally of the pertinacious longevity of his father-in-law. “Je n’ai pas cru,” he said, “en me mariant, que j’épousais la fille du Père Éternel.” Your primogeniture,’ he continued, ‘must be a great source of unfilial feelings. The eldest son of one of your great families is in the position of the heir apparent to a throne. His father’s death is to give him suddenly rank, power, and wealth; and we know that royal heirs apparent are seldom affectionate sons. With us the fortunes are much smaller, they are equally divided, and the rank that descends to the son is nothing.’
‘What regulates,’ I asked, ‘the descent of titles?’
‘It is ill regulated,’ said Beaumont. ‘Titles are now of such little value that scarcely anyone troubles himself to lay down rules about them.
‘In general, however, it is said, that all the sons of dukes and of marquises are counts. The sons of counts in some families all take the title of Count. There are, perhaps, thirty Beaumonts. Some call themselves marquises, some counts, some barons. I am, I believe, the only one of the family who has assumed no title. Alexis de Tocqueville took none, but his elder brother, during his father’s life, called himself vicomte and his younger brother baron. Probably Alexis ought then to have called himself chevalier, and, on his father’s death, baron. But, I repeat, the matter is too unimportant to be subject to any settled rules. Ancient descent is, with us, of great value, of far more than it is with you, but titles are worth nothing.’
Saturday, August 17.—We drove to the coast and ascended the lighthouse of Gatteville, 85 métres, or about 280 feet high. It stands in the middle of a coast fringed with frightful reefs, just enough under water to create no breakers, and a flat plain a couple of miles wide behind, so that the coast is not seen till you come close to it. In spite of many lighthouses and buoys, wrecks are frequent. A mysterious one occurred last February: the lighthouse watchman showed us the spot—a reef just below the lighthouse about two hundred yards from the shore.
It was at noon—there was a heavy sea, but not a gale. He saw a large ship steer full on the reef. She struck, fell over on one side till her yards were in the water, righted herself, fell over on the other, parted in the middle, and broke up. It did not take five minutes, but during those five minutes there was the appearance of a violent struggle on board, and several shots were fired. From the papers which were washed ashore it appeared that she was from New York, bound for Havre, with a large cargo and eighty-seven passengers, principally returning emigrants. No passenger escaped, and only two of the crew: one was an Italian speaking no French, from whom they could get nothing; the other was an Englishman from Cardiff, speaking French, but almost obstinately uncommunicative. He said that he was below when the ship struck, that the captain had locked the passengers in the cabin, and that he knew nothing of the causes which had led the ship to go out of her course to run on this rock.
The captain may have been drunk or mad. Or there may have been a mutiny on board, and those who got possession of the ship may have driven her on the coast, supposing that they could beach her, and ignorant of the interposed reefs, which, as I have said, are not betrayed by breakers.
Our informant accounted for the loss of all, except two persons, by the heavy sea, the sharp reefs, and the blows received by those who tried to swim from the floating cargo. The two who escaped were much bruised.
A man and woman were found tied to one another and tied to a spar. They seemed to have been killed by blows received from the rocks or from the floating wreck.
In the evening Ampère read to us the ‘Bourgeois Gentilhomme.’ His reading is equal to any acting. It kept us all, for the first two acts, which are the most comic, in one constant roar of laughter.
‘The modern nouveau riche,’ said Beaumont, ‘has little resemblance to M. Jourdain. He talks of his horses and his carriages, builds a great hotel, and buys pictures. I have a neighbour of this kind; he drives four-in-hand over the bad roads of La Sarthe, visits with one carriage one day, and another the next. His jockey stands behind his cabriolet in top-boots, and his coachman wears a grand fur coat in summer. His own clothes are always new, sometimes in the most accurate type of a groom, sometimes in that of a dandy. His talk is of steeple-chases.’
‘And does he get on?’ I asked.
‘Not in the least,’ answered Beaumont. ‘In England a nouveau riche can get into Parliament, or help somebody else to get in, and political power levels all distinctions. Here, wealth gives no power: nothing, indeed, but office gives power. The only great men in the provinces are the préfet, the sous-préfet, and the maire. The only great man in Paris is a minister or a general. Wealth, therefore, unless accompanied by the social talents, which those who have made their fortunes have seldom had the leisure or the opportunity to acquire, leads to nothing. The women, too, of the parvenus always drag them down. They seem to acquire the tournure of society less easily than the men. Bastide, when Minister, did pretty well, but his wife used to sign her invitations “Femme Bastide.”
‘Society,’ he continued, ‘under the Republic was animated. We had great interests to discuss, and strong feelings to express, but perhaps the excitement was too great. People seemed to be almost ashamed to amuse or to be amused when the welfare of France, her glory or her degradation, her freedom or her slavery, were, as the event has proved, at stake.’
‘I suppose,’ I said to Ampère, ‘that nothing has ever been better than the salon of Madame Récamier?’
‘We must distinguish,’ said Ampère. ‘As great painters have many manners, so Madame Récamier had many salons. When I first knew her, in 1820, her habitual dinner-party consisted of her father, her husband, Ballanche, and myself. Both her father, M. Bernard, and her husband were agreeable men. Ballanche was charming.’
‘You believe,’ I said, ‘that Bernard was her father?’
‘Certainly I do,’ he replied. ‘The suspicion that Récamier might be was founded chiefly on the strangeness of their conjugal relations. To this, I oppose her apparent love for M. Bernard, and I explain Récamier’s conduct by his tastes. They were coarse, though he was a man of good manners. He never spent his evenings at home. He went where he could find more license.
‘Perhaps the most agreeable period was at that time of Chateaubriand’s reign when he had ceased to exact a tête-à-tête, and Ballanche and I were admitted at four o’clock. The most illustrious of the partie carrée was Chateaubriand, the most amusing Ballanche. My merit was that I was the youngest. Later in the evening Madame Mohl, Miss Clarke as she then was, was a great resource. She is a charming mixture of French vivacity and English originality, but I think that the French element predominates. Chateaubriand, always subject to ennui, delighted in her. He has adopted in his books some of the words which she coined. Her French is as original as the character of her mind, very good, but more of the last than of the present century.’
‘Was Chateaubriand himself,’ I said, ‘agreeable?’
‘Delightful,’ said Ampère; ‘très-entrain, très-facile à vivre, beaucoup d’imagination et de connaissances.’
‘Facile à vivre?’ I said. ‘I thought that his vanity had been difficile et exigeante.’
‘As a public man,’ said Ampère, ‘yes; and to a certain degree in general society. But in intimate society, when he was no longer “posing,” he was charming. The charm, however, was rather intellectual than moral.
‘I remember his reading to us a part of his memoirs, in which he describes his early attachment to an English girl, his separation from her, and their meeting many years after when she asked his protection for her son. Miss Clarke was absorbed by the story. She wanted to know what became of the young man, what Chateaubriand had been able to do for him. Chateaubriand could answer only in generals: that he had done all that he could, that he had spoken to the Minister, and that he had no doubt that the young man got what he wanted. But it was evident that even if he had really attempted to do anything for the son of his old love, he had totally forgotten the result. I do not think that he was pleased at Miss Clarke’s attention and sympathy being diverted from himself. Later still in Madame Récamier’s life, when she had become blind, and Chateaubriand deaf, and Ballanche very infirm, the evenings were sad. I had to try to amuse persons who had become almost unamusable.’
‘How did Madame de Chateaubriand,’ I asked, ‘take the devotion of her husband to Madame Récamier?’
‘Philosophically,’ answered Ampère. ‘He would not have spent with her the hours that he passed at the Abbaye au bois. She was glad, probably, to know that they were not more dangerously employed.’
‘Could I read Chateaubriand?’ I asked.
‘I doubt it,’ said Ampère. ‘His taste is not English.’
‘I have read,’ I said, ‘and liked, his narrative of the manner in which he forced on the Spanish war of 1822. I thought it well written.’
‘It is, perhaps,’ said Ampère, ‘the best thing which he has written, as the intervention to restore Ferdinand, which he effected in spite of almost everybody, was perhaps the most important passage in his political life.
‘There is something revolting in an interference to crush the liberties of a foreign nation. But the expedition tended to maintain the Bourbons on the French throne, and, according to Chateaubriand’s ideas, it was more important to support the principle of legitimacy than that of liberty. He expected, too, sillily enough, that Ferdinand would give a Constitution. It is certain, that, bad as the effects of that expedition were, Chateaubriand was always proud of it.’
‘What has Ballanche written?’ I asked.
‘A dozen volumes,’ he answered. ‘Poetry, metaphysics, on all sorts of subjects, with pages of remarkable vigour and finesse, containing some of the best writing in the language, but too unequal and too desultory to be worth going through.’
‘How wonderfully extensive,’ I said, ‘is French literature! Here is a voluminous author, some of whose writings, you say, are among the best in the French language, yet his name, at least as an author, is scarcely known. He shines only by reflected light, and will live only because he attached himself to a remarkable man and to a remarkable woman.’
‘French literature,’ said Ampère, ‘is extensive, but yet inferior to yours. If I were forced to select a single literature and to read nothing else, I would take the English. In one of the most important departments, the only one which cannot be re-produced by translation—poetry—you beat us hollow. We are great only in the drama, and even there you are perhaps our superiors. We have no short poems comparable to the “Allegro” or to the “Penseroso,” or to the “Country Churchyard.” ’
‘Tocqueville,’ I said, ‘told me that he did not think that he could could now read Lamartine.’
‘Tocqueville,’ said Ampère, ‘could taste, like every man of genius, the very finest poetry, but he was not a lover of poetry. He could not read a hundred bad lines and think himself repaid by finding mixed with them ten good ones.’
‘Ingres,’ said Beaumont, ‘perhaps our greatest living painter, is one of the clever cultivated men who do not read. Somebody put the “Misanthrope” into his hands, “It is wonderfully clever,” he said, when he returned it; “how odd it is that it should be so totally unknown.” ’
‘Let us read it to-night,’ I said.
‘By all means,’ said Madame de Tocqueville; ‘though we know it by heart it will be new when read by M. Ampère.’ Accordingly Ampère read it to us after dinner.
‘The tradition of the stage,’ he said, ‘is that Célimène was Molière’s wife.’
‘She is made too young,’ said Minnie. ‘A girl of twenty has not her wit, or her knowledge of the world.’
‘The change of a word,’ said Ampère, ‘in two or three places would alter that. The feeblest characters are as usual the good ones. Philinte and Eliante.
‘Alceste is a grand mixture, perhaps the only one on the French stage, of the comic and the tragic; for in many of the scenes he rises far above comedy. His love is real impetuous passion. Talma delighted in playing him.’
‘The desert,’ I said, ‘into which he retires, was, I suppose, a distant country-house. Just such a place as Tocqueville.’
‘As Tocqueville,’ said Beaumont, ‘fifty years ago, without roads, ten days’ journey from Paris, and depending for society on Valognes.’
‘As Tocqueville,’ said Madame de Tocqueville, ‘when my mother-in-law first married. She spent in it a month and could never be induced to see it again.’
‘Whom,’ I asked, ‘did Célimène marry?’
‘Of course,’ said Ampère, ‘Alceste. Probably five years afterwards. By that time he must have got tired of his desert and she of her coquetry.’
‘We know,’ I said, ‘that Molière was always in love with his wife, notwithstanding her légèreté. What makes me think the tradition that Célimène was Mademoiselle Molière true, is that Molière was certainly in love with Célimène. She is made as engaging as possible, and her worst faults do not rise above foibles. Her satire is good-natured. Arsinoé is her foil, introduced to show what real evil-speaking is.’
‘All the women,’ said Ampère, ‘are in love with Alceste, and they care about no one else. Célimène’s satire of the others is scarcely good-natured. It is clear, at least, that they did not think so.’
‘If Célimène,’ said Minnie, ‘became Madame Alceste, he probably made her life a burthen with his jealousy.’
‘Of course he was jealous,’ said Madame de Beaumont, ‘for he was violently in love. There can scarcely be violent love without jealousy.’
‘At least,’ said Madame de Tocqueville, ‘till people are married.
‘If a lover is cool enough to be without jealousy, he ought to pretend it.’
Sunday, August 18.—After breakfast when the ladies were gone to church, I talked over with Ampère and Beaumont Tocqueville’s political career.
‘Why,’ I asked, ‘did he refuse the support of M. Molé in 1835? Why would he never take office under Louis Philippe? Why did he associate himself with the Gauche whom he despised, and oppose the Droit with whom he sympathised? Is the answer given by M. Guizot to a friend of mine who asked a nearly similar question, “Parce qu’il voulait être où je suis,” the true one?’
‘The answers to your first question,’ said Beaumont, are two. In 1835 Tocqueville was young and inexperienced. Like most young politicians, he thought that he ought to be an independent member, and to vote, on every occasion, according to his conscience, untrammelled by party connections. He afterwards found his mistake.
‘And, secondly, if he had chosen to submit to a leader, it would not have been Molé.
‘Molé represented a principle to which Guizot was then vehemently opposed, though he was afterwards its incarnation—the subservience of the Ministry and of the Parliament to the King. In that house of 450 members, there were 220 placemen; 200 were the slaves of the King. They received from him their orders; from time to time, in obedience to those orders, they even opposed his Ministers.
‘This, however, seldom occurred, for the King contrived always to have a devoted majority in his Cabinet.
‘It was this that drove the Duc de Broglie from the Government and prevented his ever resuming office.
‘ “I could not bear,” he said to me, “to hear Sebastiani repeat, in every council and on every occasion, ‘Ce que le Roi vient de dire est parfaitement juste.’ ” The only Ministers that ventured to have an opinion of their own were those of the 12th of May 1839, of which Dufaure, Villemain, and Passy were members, and that of the 1st of March 1840, of which Thiers was the leader; and Tocqueville supported them both.
‘When Guizot, who had maintained the principle of Ministerial and Parliamentary, in opposition to that of Monarchical Governments, with unequalled eloquence, vigour, and I may add violence, suddenly turned round and became the most servile member of the King’s servile majority, Tocqueville fell back into opposition.
‘In general it is difficult to act with an opposition systematically and, at the same time, honestly. For the measures proposed by a Government are, for the most part, good. But, during the latter part of Louis Philippe’s reign, it was easy, for the Government proposed merely to do nothing—either abroad or at home. I do not complain of the essence of M. Guizot’s foreign policy, though there was a want of dignity in its forms.
‘There was nothing useful to be done, and, under such circumstances, all action would have been mischievous.
‘But at home every thing was to be done. Our code required to be amended, our commerce and our industry, and our agriculture required to be freed, our municipal and commercial institutions were to be created, our taxation was to be revised, and above all, our parliamentary system—under which, out of 36,000,000 of French, only 200,000 had votes, under which the Deputies bought a majority of the 200,000 electors, and the King bought a majority of the 450 deputies—required absolute reconstruction.
‘Louis Philippe would allow nothing to be done. If he could have prevented it we should not have had a railroad. He would not allow the most important of all, that to Marseilles, to be finished. He would not allow our monstrous centralisation, or our monstrous protective system, to be touched. The owners of forests were permitted to deprive us of cheap fuel, the owners of forges of cheap iron, the owners of factories of cheap clothing.
‘In some of this stupid inaction Guizot supported him conscientiously, for, like Thiers, he is ignorant of the first principles of political economy, but he knows too much the philosophy of Government not to have felt, on every other point, that the King was wrong.
‘If he supposed that Tocqueville wished to be in his place, on the conditions on which he held office, he was utterly mistaken.
‘Tocqueville was ambitious; he wished for power. So did I. We would gladly have been real Ministers, but nothing would have tempted us to be the slaves of the pensée immuable, or to sit in a Cabinet in which we were constantly out-voted, or to defend, as Guizot had to do in the Chamber, conduct which we had disapproved in the Council.
‘You ask why Tocqueville joined the Gauche whom he despised, against the Droit with whom he sympathised.?
‘He voted with the Gauche only where he thought their votes right. Where he thought them wrong, as, for instance, in all that respected Algeria, he left them. They would have abandoned the country, and, when that could not be obtained, they tried to prevent the creation of the port.
‘Very early, however, in his parliamentary life, he had found that an independent member—a member who supporting no party is supported by no party—is useless. He allowed himself therefore to be considered a member of the Gauche; but I never could persuade him to be tolerably civil to them. Once, after I had been abusing him for his coldness to them, he shook hands with Romorantin, then looked towards me for my applause, but I doubt whether he ever shook hands with him again. In fact almost his only point of contact with them was their disapprobation of the inactivity of Louis Philippe. Many of them were Bonapartists like Abbatucci and Romorantin. Some were Socialists, some were Republicans; the majority of them wished to overthrow the Monarchy, and the minority looked forward with indifference to its fall.
‘They hated him as much as he did them, much more indeed, for his mind was not formed for hatred. They excluded him from almost all committees.’
‘Would it not have been wise in him,’ I asked, ‘to retire from the Chamber during the King’s life, or at least until it contained a party with whom he could cordially act?’
‘Perhaps,’ said Beaumont, ‘that would have been the wisest course for him—and indeed for me. I entered the Chamber reluctantly. All my family were convinced that a political man not in the Chamber was nothing. So I let myself be persuaded. Tocqueville required no persuasion, he was anxious to get in, and when in it was difficult to persuade oneself to go out. We always hoped for a change. The King might die, or he might be forced—as he had been forced before—to submit to a liberal Ministry which might have been a temporary cure, or even to a Parliamentary reform which might have been a complete cure. Duchâtel, who is a better politician than Guizot, was superseding him in the confidence of the King and of the Chamber.
‘In fact, the liberal Ministry and Parliamentary reform did come at last, though not until it was too late to save the Monarchy.
‘If Tocqueville had retired in disgust from the Chamber of Deputies, he might not have been a member of the Constituent, or of the Legislative Assembly. This would have been a misfortune—though the shortness of the duration of the first, and the hostility of the President during the second, and also the state of his health, prevented his influencing the destinies of the Republic as much as his friends expected him to do, and indeed as he expected himself.’
‘I have often,’ I said, ‘wondered how you and Tocqueville, and the other eminent men who composed the committee for preparing the Constitution, could have made one incapable of duration, and also incapable of change.’
‘What,’ he asked, ‘are the principal faults which you find in the Constitution?’
‘First,’ I said, ‘that you gave to your President absolute authority over the army, the whole patronage of the most centralised and the most place-hunting country in the world, so that there was not one of your population of 36,000,000 whose interests he could not seriously affect; and, having thus armed him with irresistible power, you gave him the strongest possible motives to employ it against the Constitution by turning him out at the end of his four years, incapable of reelection, unpensioned and unprovided for, so that he must have gone from the Élysée Bourbon to a debtor’s prison.
‘Next, that, intending your President to be the subordinate Minister of the Assembly, you gave him the same origin, and enabled him to say, “I represent the people as much as you do, indeed much more. They all voted for me, only a fraction of them voted for any one of you.” Then that origin was the very worst that could possibly be selected, the votes of the uneducated multitude; you must have foreseen that they would give you a demagogue or a charlatan. The absence of a second Chamber, and the absence of a power of dissolution, are minor faults, but still serious ones. When the President and the Assembly differed, they were shut up together to fight it out without an umpire.’
‘That we gave the President too much power,’ said Beaumont, ‘the event has proved. But I do not see how, in the existing state of feeling in France, we could have given him less. The French have no self-reliance. They depend for everything on their administrators. The first revolution and the first empire destroyed all their local authorities and also their aristocracy. Local authorities may be gradually re-created, and an aristocracy may gradually arise, but till these things have been done the Executive must be strong.
‘If he had been re-eligible, our first President would virtually have been President for life. Having decided that his office should be temporary, we were forced to forbid his immediate re-election.
‘With respect to his being left unprovided for, no man who had filled the office decently would have been refused an ample provision on quitting it. As for this man, no provision that we could have made for him, if we had given him three or four millions a year, would have induced him to give up what he considered a throne which was his by descent. He swore to the Constitution with an idée fixe to destroy it. He attempted to do so on the 29th of January 1849, not two months after his election.
‘I agree with you that the fault of the Constitution was that it allowed the President to be chosen by universal suffrage; and that the fault of the people was that they elected a pretender to the throne, whose ambition, rashness, and faithlessness had been proved.
‘No new Constitution can work if the Executive conspires against it. But deliberating and acting in the midst of émeutes, with a Chamber and a population divided into half a dozen hostile factions, the two Royalist parties hating one another, the Bonapartists bent on destroying all freedom, and the Socialists all individual property, what could we do? My wish and Tocqueville’s was to give the election to the Chamber. We found that out of 650 members we could not hope that our proposition would be supported by more than 200. You think that we ought to have proposed two Chambers. The great use of two Chambers is to strengthen the Executive by enabling it to play one against the other; but we felt that our Executive was dangerously strong, and we believed, I think truly, that a single Chamber would resist him better than two could do. The provision which required more than a bare majority for the revision of the Constitution was one of those which we borrowed from America. It had worked well there. In the general instability we wished to have one anchor, one mooring ring fixed. We did not choose that the whole framework of our Government should be capable of being suddenly destroyed by a majority of one, in a moment of excitement and perhaps by a parliamentary surprise.
‘With respect to your complaint that, there being no power of dissolution, there was no means of taking the opinion of the people, the answer is, that to give the President power of dissolution would have been to invite him to a coup d’état. With no Chamber to watch him, he would have been omnipotent.
‘I agree with you that the Constitution was a detestable one. But even now, looking back to the times, and to the conditions under which we made it, I do not think that it was in our power to make a good one.’
‘Tocqueville,’ I said, ‘told me that Cormenin was your Solon, that he brought a bit of constitution to you every morning, and that it was usually adopted.’
‘Tocqueville’s memory,’ answered Beaumont, ‘deceived him. Cormenin was our president. It is true that he brought a bit of constitution every morning. But it scarcely ever was adopted or capable of being adopted. It was in general bad in itself, or certain to be rejected by the Assembly. He wished to make the President a puppet. But he exercised over us a mischievous influence. He tried to revenge himself for our refusal of all his proposals by rendering our deliberations fruitless. And as the power of a president over a deliberative body is great, he often succeeded.
‘Many of our members were unaccustomed to public business and lost their tempers or their courage when opposed. The Abbé Lamennais proposed a double election of the president. But of thirty members, only four, among whom were Tocqueville and I, supported him. He left the committee and never returned to it. Tocqueville and I were anxious to introduce double election everywhere. It is the best palliative of universal suffrage.’
‘The double election,’ I said, ‘of the American President is nugatory. Every elector is chosen under a pledge to nominate a specified candidate.’
‘That is true,’ said Beaumont, ‘as to the President, but not as to the other functionaries thus elected. The senators chosen by double election are far superior to the representatives chosen by direct voting.
‘We proposed, too, to begin by establishing municipal institutions. We were utterly defeated. The love of centralisation is almost inherent in French politicians. They see the evil of local government—its stupidity, its corruption, its jobbing. They see the convenience of centralisation—the ease with which a centralised administration works. Feelings which are really democratic have reached those who fancy themselves aristocrats. We had scarcely a supporter.
‘We should perhaps have a few now, when experience has shown that centralisation is still more useful to an usurper than it is to a regular Government.’
August 18.—We drove in the afternoon to the coast, and sat in the shade of the little ricks of sea-weed, gazing on an open sea as blue as the Mediterranean.
We talked of America.
‘I can understand,’ said Madame de Tocqueville, ‘the indignation of the North against you. It is, of course, excessive, but they had a right to expect you to be on their side in an anti-slavery war.’
‘They had no right,’ I said, ‘to expect from our Government anything but absolute neutrality.’
‘But you need not,’ she replied, ‘have been so eager to put the South on the footing of belligerents.’
‘On what other footing,’ I asked, ‘could we put them? On what other footing does the North put them? Have they ventured, or will they venture, to hang a single seceder?’
‘At least,’ she said, ‘you might have expressed more sympathy with the North?’
‘I think,’ I answered, ‘that we have expressed as much sympathy as it was possible to feel. We deplore the combat, we hold the South responsible for it, we think their capricious separation one of the most foolish and one of the most wicked acts that have ever been committed; we hope that the North will beat them, and we should bitterly regret their forcing themselves back into the Union on terms making slavery worse, if possible, than it is now. We wish the contest to end as quickly as possible: but we do not think that it can end by the North subjugating the Southerns and forcing them to be its subjects.
‘The best termination to which we look forward as possible, is that the North should beat the South, and then dictate its own terms of separation.
‘If they wish to go farther than this, if they wish us to love or to admire our Northern cousins in their political capacity, they wish for what is impossible.
‘We cannot forget that the Abolitionists have been always a small and discredited party; that the Cuba slave trade is mainly carried on from New York; that they have neglected the obligations formally entered into by them with us to co-operate in the suppression of the slave trade; that they have pertinaciously refused to allow us even to inquire into the right of slavers to use the American flag; that it is the capital of the North which feeds the slavery of the South; that the first act of the North, as soon as the secession of the South from Congress allowed it to do what it liked, was to enact a selfish protective tariff; that their treatment of us, from the time that they have felt strong enough to insult us, has been one unvaried series of threats, bullying, and injury; that they have refused to submit their claims on us to arbitration, driven out our ambassadors, seized by force on disputed territory, and threatened war on every pretence.’
‘It is true,’ said Beaumont, ‘that during the last twenty years American diplomacy has not been such as to inspire affection or respect. But you must recollect that during all that time America has been governed by the South.’
‘It is true,’ I said, ‘that the presidents have generally been Southerns, but I am not aware that the North has ever disavowed their treatment of us. This is certain, that throughout the Union, insolence to England has been an American statesman’s road to popularity.’
Monday, August 19.—We walked in the afternoon over the commons overlooking the sea, and among the shady lanes of this well-wooded country.
We came on a group of about twelve or thirteen reapers taking their evening meal of enormous loaves of brown bread, basins of butter, and kegs of cider.
M. Roussell, the farmer in whose service they were, was sitting among them. He was an old friend and constituent of Tocqueville, and for thirty years was Maire of Tocqueville. He has recently resigned. He rose and walked with us to his house.
‘I was required,’ he said, ‘to support the prefect’s candidate for the Conseil général. No such proposition was ever made to me before. I could not submit to it. The prefect has been unusually busy of late. The schoolmaster has been required to send in a list of the peasants whose children, on the plea of poverty, receive gratuitous education. The children of those who do not vote with the prefect are to have it no longer.’
I asked what were the wages of labour.
‘Three francs and half a day,’ he said, ‘during the harvest, with food—which includes cider. In ordinary times one franc a day with food, or a franc and a half without food.’
‘It seems then,’ I said, ‘that you can feed a man for half a franc a day?’
‘He can feed himself,’ said M. Roussell, ‘for that, but I cannot, or for double that money.’
The day labourer is generally hired only for one day. A new bargain is made every day.
The house was not uncomfortable, but very untidy. There are no ricks, everything is stored in large barns, where it is safe from weather, but terribly exposed to vermin.
A bright-complexioned servant-girl was in the kitchen preparing an enormous bowl of soup, of which bread, potatoes, and onions were the chief solid ingredients.
‘Roussell,’ said Beaumont, ‘is superior to his class. In general they are bad politicians. It is seldom difficult to get their votes for the nominee of the prefect. They dislike to vote for anyone whom they know, especially if he be a gentleman, or be supported by the gentry. Such a candidate excites their democratic envy and suspicion. But the prefect is an abstraction. They have never seen him, they have seldom heard of his name or of that of his candidate, and therefore they vote for him.
‘Lately, however, in some of my communes, the peasants have adopted a new practice, that of electing peasants. I suspect that the Government is not displeased.
‘The presence of such members will throw discredit on the Conseils généraux, and, if they get there, on the Corps législatif, much to the pleasure of our democratic master, and they will be easily bribed or frightened. Besides which, the fifteen francs a day will be a fortune to them, and they will be terrified by the threat of a dissolution. I do not think that even yet we have seen the worst of universal suffrage.’
‘What influence,’ I asked, ‘have the priests?’
‘In some parts of France,’ said Beaumont, ‘where the people are religious, as is the case here, much. Not much in the north-east, where there is little religion; and in the towns, where there is generally no religion, their patronage of a candidate would ruin him. I believe that nothing has so much contributed to Louis Napoleon’s popularity with the ouvriers as his quarrel with the Pope. You may infer the feelings of the lower classes in Paris from his cousin’s conduct.’
‘I study Prince Napoleon,’ said Ampère, ‘with interest, for I believe that he will be the successor.’
‘If Louis Napoleon,’ I said, ‘were to be shot tomorrow, would not the little prince be proclaimed?’
‘Probably,’ said Ampère,’ ‘but with Jérôme for regent, and I doubt whether the regency would end by the little Napoleon IV. assuming the sceptre.
‘Louis Napoleon himself does not expect it. He often says that, in France, it is more than two hundred years since a sovereign has been succeeded by his son.
‘On the whole,’ continued Ampère, ‘I had rather have Jérôme than Louis Napoleon. He has more talent and less prudence. He would bring on the crisis sooner.
‘On the 31st of October, 1849,’ said Madame de Tocqueville, ‘I was in Louis Napoleon’s company, and he mentioned some matter on which he wished to know my husband’s opinion. I could not give it. “It does not much signify,” he answered, “for as I see M. de Tocqueville every day, I will talk to him about it myself.” At that very time, the ordonnance dismissing M. de Tocqueville had been signed, and Louis Napoleon knew that he would probably never see him again.’
‘I do not,’ said Ampère, ‘give up the chance of a republic. I do not wish for one. It must be a very bad constitutional monarchy which I should not prefer to the best republic. My democratic illusions are gone. France and America have dispelled them: but it must be a very bad republic which I should not prefer to the best despotism. A republic is like a fever, violent and frightful, but not necessarily productive of organic mischief. A despotism is a consumption: it degrades and weakens, and perverts all the vital functions.
‘What is there now in France worth living for? I find people proud of our Italian campaign. Why should the French be proud that their master’s soldiers have been successful in a war as to which they were not consulted; which, in fact, they disapproved, which was not made for their benefit, which was the most glaring proof of their servility and degradation? We knew before that our troops were better than the Austrians. What have we gained by the additional example of their superiority?
‘I fear,’ I said, ‘that a republic, at least such a republic as you are likely to have, would begin by some gross economical enormities—by the droit au travail, by the impôt progressif sur la fortune présumée, by a paper currency made a legal tender without limitation of its amount.’
‘The last republic,’ said Ampère, ‘did some of these things, but very timidly and moderately. It gave to its paper a forced currency, but was so cautious in its issue, that it was not depreciated. It created the ateliers nationaux, but it soon dissolved them, though at the expense of a civil war. Its worst fault was more political than economical: it was the 45 centimes, that is to say, the sudden increase by 45 per cent. of the direct taxes. It never recovered that blow. Of all its acts it is the one which is best recollected. The Provisional Government is known in the provinces as “ces gredins des quarante-cinq centimes.” The business of a revolutionary government is to be popular. It ought to reduce taxation, meet its expenditure by loans, abolish octrois and prohibitions, and defer taxation until it has lasted long enough to be submitted to as a fait accompli.’
‘I fear,’ said Madame de Tocqueville, ‘that our working classes are in a much worse frame of mind than they were in 1848. Socialist opinions—the doctrine that the profits of capitalists are so much taken fraudulently or oppressively from the wages of labourers, and that it is unjust that one man should have more of the means of happiness than another—are extending every day. The workpeople believe that the rich are their enemies and that the Emperor is their friend, and that he will join them in an attempt to get their fair share, that is, an equal share, of the property of the country—and I am not sure that they are mistaken.’
‘Nor am I,’ said Beaumont. ‘Celui-ci fully sympathises with their feelings, and I do not think that he has intelligence enough to see the absurdity of their theories.’
‘You do not deny him,’ I said, ‘intelligence?’
‘Not,’ said Beaumont, ‘for some purposes, and to some extent, practical intelligence. His ends are bad, but he is often skilful in inventing and pertinacious in employing means for effecting those bad ends. But I deny him theoretic intelligence. I do not think that he has comprehension or patience to work out, or even to follow, a long train of reasoning; such a train as that by which economical errors and fallacies are detected.’
‘Are there strikes,’ I asked, ‘among your workmen?’
‘They are beginning,’ said Beaumont. ‘We have had one near us, and the authorities were afraid to interfere.’
‘I suppose,’ I said, ‘that they are illegal?’
‘They are illegal,’ he answered, ‘and I think that they ought to be so. They are always oppressive and tyrannical. The workman who does not join in a strike is made miserable. They are generally mischievous to the combined workmen themselves, and always to those of other trades. Your toleration of them appears to me one of the worst symptoms of your political state of health. It shows among your public men an ignorance or a cowardice, or a desire of ill-earned popularity, which is generally a precursor of a democratic revolution.’
‘It is certain,’ said Ampère, ‘that the masters are becoming afraid of their workmen. Péreire brings his from their residences to the Barrière Malesherbes in carriages. You are not actually insulted in the streets of Paris, but you are treated with rude neglect. A fiacre likes to splash you, a paveur to scatter you with mud. Louis Napoleon began with Chauvinism. He excited all the bad international passions of the multitude. He has now taken up Sansculotteism. Repulsed with scorn and disgust by the rich and the educated, he has thrown himself on the poor and ignorant. The passions with which he likes to work are envy, malignity, and rapacity.
‘I do not believe that he feels them. He is what is called a good-natured man. That is to say, he likes to please everyone that he sees. But his selfishness is indescribable.
‘No public interest stands in the way of his slightest caprice. He often puts me in mind of Nero. With the same indifference to the welfare of others with which Nero amused himself by burning down Rome, he is amusing himself by pulling down Paris.’
N. W. Senior.
[We left Tocqueville on the following day with great regret. The same party was never to meet again—the only survivors are Madame de Beaumont and myself and the Beaumonts’ son, then a very intelligent boy of ten years old.
One day my father and I visited the little green churchyard on a cliff near the sea where Tocqueville is buried. The tomb is a plain grey stone slab—on it a cross is cut in bas-relief, with these words only:—
ICI REPOSE ALEXIS DE TOCQUEVILLE. NÉ 24 FÉVRIER 1805. MORT 16 AVRIL 1859.
My father laid a wreath of immortelles on the tomb.—Ed.]
Montalembert’s speech was afterwards published in the Moniteur, but with considerable alterations. In Mr. Senior’s journal in 1854 (which has not been published), he says, under the date of April 26, ‘I called on Montalembert and took him my report of his speech. He has promised to add to it any notes that it may require. “The printed report,” he said, “is intentionally falsified. Before it was struck off I asked to see the proofs. I was told that, as such an application was new, the President of the Bureau would meet and decide on its admissibility. They decided that it could not be granted.” ’
[The following is Mr. Senior’s report, with M. de Montalembert’s own corrections and additions in French.—Ed.]
At length Montalembert rose. He stood near the extreme right, with his side towards the tribune, and his face towards the centre gallery, in which I sat. His voice and delivery are so good, and the house was so silent, that I did not lose a word. I believe that the following report is a tolerably accurate abridgment of his speech.
‘Gentlemen, I must begin by expressing to you my deep gratitude for the attention which you have paid to this unhappy business. I am grieved at having occasioned the waste of so much public time. I am still more grieved at having been the occasion of division among my colleagues.’
[Note by Montalembert.—‘J’aurais voulu faire plus qu’exprimer le regret: j’aurais voulu me prêter à tous les arrangements qui m’ont été suggérés par des voix amies pour mettre un terme à cette discussion. Je n’aurais reculé devant aucun sacrifice qui eût été compatible avec l’honneur. Mais vous comprenez tous que sous le coup d’une poursuite, d’un danger, je ne puis rien désavouer, rien rétracter, rien retirer de ce que j’ai écrit, de ce que j’ai pensé. Si j’agissais autrement il vous resterait un collègue absous, mais déshonoré et dont vous ne sauriez que faire.’]
‘More than all I am grieved when I think of the time at which this has occurred. A time when we are engaged in an honourable and serious war—a war in which, with the great and faithful ally whom I have always desired, and the sympathy of all Europe, we are defending civilisation against an enemy, barbarous indeed, but so formidable as to require our undivided energy and our undivided attention.
‘But you must recollect when that letter was written. It was in last September, in profound peace, when our whole thoughts were employed, and were properly employed, on our internal affairs.
‘Aujourd’hui il en est autrement; l’état de guerre impose à tous les citoyens des devoirs spéciaux: il doit aussi imposer un certain frein à l’esprit de critique. Aucun Français, quel que soit sa foi politique, ne peut vouloir discréditer le pouvoir des dissidents, des mécontents, mais il n’y a plus d’émigrés, ni à l’intérieur, ni à l’extérieur.’
[Note by N. W. Senior.—This seems to be an allusion to a passage in Thiers’s celebrated speech of the 17th of February, 1851. ‘Il ne faut émigrer, ni au dehors, ni au dedans.’]
[‘J’aurais su contenir les sentiments les plus passionnés de mon âme, plutôt que de paraître affaiblir en quoi que ce soit la main qui porte l’épée et le drapeau de la France. Ce n’est pas toutefois que j’admette que toute liberté de parole ou de presse soit incompatible avec l’état de guerre. L’Angleterre a conservé toutes ses libertés en faisant la guerre aux plus redoutables ennemis: aujourd’hui encore l’opposition, d’accord avec le gouvernement sur la question extérieure, maintient les résistances et les critiques à l’intérieur. Et certes personne ne dira que l’Angleterre, pour avoir conservé la liberté de discussion la plus entière, n’ait pas déployé pour le moins autant de prévoyance et d’énergie que nous dans la conduite de la guerre où nous entrons. Il n’y a que les nations où la vie publique circule dans toutes les veines du corps social, qui sachent résister aux épreuves et aux chances d’une guerre prolongée. La liberté de la contradiction centuple le prix d’une libre adhésion; et à force de mettre une sourdine à toutes les émotions du pays, il faut prendre garde qu’on ne se trouve un jour dans l’impossibilité de faire vibrer les cordes les plus essentielles quand le moment des dangers et des sacrifices sera arrivé.’]
‘I deeply regret the publication of that letter. But with that publication I repeat that I am utterly unconnected. I never sanctioned it, I never wished for it, I never even thought it possible. There are passages in the letter itself which I might modify if I were to re-write it, but it would rather be by adding to them than by taking from them. Two accusations have been directed against its substance. One that it is hostile to the Emperor; the other that it is hostile to this assembly. No one who knows my character, and knows my history, will believe that I can have intended to injure the Emperor. Our relations have been such as to make it impossible.
[‘J’ai eu l’occasion de défendre le chef actuel de l’Etat dans des circonstances infiniment difficiles, et où rien n’était plus douteux que le succès. Je ne prétends pas l’avoir constitué par cela mon débiteur, car en le défendant, je ne voulais servir, comme toujours, que la justice, l’intérêt du pays, la liberté modérée qui se personnifiaient en lui à mes yeux, mais enfin, aux yeux du public il est mon obligé, et je ne suis pas le sien. Si j’avais eu la pensée d’offenser publiquement l’Empereur, et si j’y avais cédé, nous serions quittes. Or, je tiens beaucoup à ce que nous ne le soyons pas. Il n’y aurait pour moi ni honneur ni avantage à ce changement de position. Tous les hommes de bon goût, tous les cœurs délicats, me comprendront.’]
‘It is equally impossible that I should have wished to offend this assembly. It contains men by whose sides I have fought the great battles of property and law. I love many of its members. I respect almost all. If I have offended any, it was done unconsciously. Again, it is said that the tone of my letter is violent. Expressions may be called violent by some which would be only called passionnés by others. Now I admit that I am passionné. It is in my nature. I owe to that quality much of my merit, whatever that merit may be. Were I not passionné, I should not have been during all my life, la sentinelle perdue de la liberté. I should not have thrown myself into every breach: sometimes braving the attacks of anarchy, sometimes heading the assault on tyranny, and sometimes fighting against the worst of all despotisms, the despotism that is based on democracy.’
[‘Allons plus au fond, et vous reconnaîtrez que les opinions énoncées dans la lettre ne sont autres que celles toujours professées par moi. Elles peuvent toutes se ramener à une seule, à mon éloignement pour le pouvoir absolu. Je ne l’aime pas: je ne l’ai jamais aimé. Si j’ai tant combattu l’anarchie avant et après 1848, si j’ai suscité contre moi dans le parti démagogique ces haines virulentes qui durent encore et qui ne perdent jamais une occasion d’éclater contre moi, c’est parce que j’ai compris de bonne heure les affinités naturelles du despotisme et de la démocratie; c’est parce que j’ai prévu et prédit que la démocratie nous conduirait au pouvoir absolu. Oui, je crois, comme je l’ai dit, que le despotisme abaisse les caractères, les intelligences, les consciences. Oui, je déplore le système qui rend un seul homme tout-puissant et seul responsable des destinées d’une nation de 36 millions d’hommes; et trouve que cela ressemble trop au gouvernement russe, contre lequel nous allons en guerre, et trop peu au gouvernement anglais, dont nous prisons si haut l’alliance.’]
‘I am told again, and the accusation is sanctioned by the réquisitoire of the Procureur-Général, that my letter is inconsistent with the fidelity which I have sworn to the Emperor and to the constitution. When a man swears fidelity to a sovereign and to a constitution, his oath engages him only as to matters within his own power. He swears not to conspire against them. He swears not to attempt to subvert them. He cannot swear to approve the acts of the sovereign, or the working of the constitution, for he cannot foresee what either of them will be. I have kept, and I shall keep, my oath to the Emperor and my oath to the constitution. I have not attempted, and I shall not attempt, to overthrow either of them. But my approbation of either of them does not depend on me. I accepted the coup d’état, comme vous l’avez tous fait, comme notre seule chance de salut dans les circonstances d’alors. I expected a Government honnête et modéré. I have been disappointed.’
Here a violent exclamation ran through the assembly. Baroche rose and cried out, ‘You hear him, gentlemen. He says that he expected honesty and moderation from the Government, and that he has been disappointed. I appeal to you, Mr. President, to decide whether we are to sit and listen to such infamies.’
[Voix diverses:—‘Expliquez vos paroles.’ ‘Retirez vos paroles.’ M. de Montalembert.—‘Je les maintiens et je les explique.’]
‘I expected un gouvernement honnête et modéré. I have been disappointed. Its honnêteté may be judged by the confiscation of the Orleans property.’
Here was another hubbub, and another protest of Baroche’s.
‘What is going on before you,’ continued Montalembert, ‘is a sample of its moderation. It is now attempting in my person to introduce into our criminal law a new délit, “communication.” Until now it was supposed that nothing was criminal until it was published. It was believed that a man might write his opinions and his reflections, and might exchange them with his friends; that nothing was libellous that was confidential. Now this Government holds a man responsible for every thought that an indiscreet or an incautious friend, or a concealed enemy, or a tool of power reveals. If it succeeds in this attempt, it will not rest satisfied with this victory over the remnant of our freedom. It is not in the nature of things that it should. A Government that will not tolerate censure must forbid discussion. You are now asked to put down writing. When that has been done, conversation will be attacked. Paris will resemble Rome under the successors of Augustus. Already this prosecution has produced a malaise which I never felt or observed before. What will be the feelings of the nation when all that is around it is concealed, when every avenue by which light could penetrate is stopped; when we are exposed to all the undefined terrors and exaggerated dangers that accompany utter darkness? The misfortune of France, a national defect which makes the happiness enjoyed by England unattainable by us, is, that she is always oscillating between extremes; that she is constantly swinging from universal conquest to la paix à tout prix, from the desire of nothing but glory to the desire of nothing but wealth, from the wildest democracy to the most abject servility. Every new Government starts with a new principle. Every Government in a few years perishes by carrying that principle to an extreme. The First Republic was destroyed by the intemperance with which it trampled on every sort of tradition and authority, the First Empire by its abuse of victory and war, the Restoration by its exaggerated belief in divine right and legitimacy, the Royalty of July by its exaggerated reliance on purchased voters and Parliamentary majorities, the Second Republic by the conduct of its own Republicans. The danger to the Second Empire—its only internal danger, but I fear a fatal one—is its abuse of authority. With every phase of our sixty years’ long revolution, we have a new superstition, a new culte. We are now required to become the worshippers of authority. I lament that with the new religion we have not new priests. Our public men would not be discredited by instantaneous apostasy from one political faith to another. I am grieved, gentlemen, if I offend you; though many of you are older in years than I am, not one probably is so old in public life. I may be addressing you for the last time, and I feel that my last words ought to contain all the warnings that I think will be useful to you. This assembly will soon end, as all its predecessors have ended. Its acts, its legislation, may perish with it, but its reputation, its fame, for good or for evil, will survive. Within a few minutes you will do an act by which that reputation will be seriously affected; by which it may be raised, by which it may be deeply, perhaps irrevocably, sunk. Your vote to-night will show whether you possess freedom, and whether you deserve it. As for myself, I care but little. A few months, or even years, of imprisonment are among the risks which every public man who does his duty in revolutionary times must encounter, and which the first men of the country have incurred, soit en sortant des affaires, soit avant d’y entrer. But whatever may be the effect of your vote on my person, whatever it may be on your reputation, I trust that it is not in your power to inflict permanent injury on my country. Among you are some who lived through the Empire. They must remember that the soldiers of our glorious army cherished as fondly the recollection of its defeats as of its victories. They must see that the lessons which those defeats taught, and the feelings which they inspired, are now among the sources of our military strength. Your Emperor himself, in one of his earlier addresses, talked hopefully of the period when France would be capable of more liberty than he now thinks good for her, “Un jour,” he exclaimed, “mon œuvre sera couronnée par la liberté.” I join in that hope. I look sanguinely towards the time when she will be worthy of the English constitution, and she will obtain it. Vous tenez le corps de la France, mais vous ne tenez pas son âme. Cette âme, aujourd’hui effrayée, engourdie, endormie, cette âme c’est la liberté. Elle se réveillera un jour et vous échappera. La certitude de ce réveil suffit pour consoler et fortifier ses vieux et fidèles soldats à traverser la nuit de l’épreuve. Cette liberté honnète et modérée, sage et sainte, j’y ai toujours cru, et j’y crois encore. Je l’ai toujours servie, toujours aimée, toujours invoquée, tantôt pour la religion, tantôt pour le pays; hier contre le socialisme, aujourd’hui contre un commencement de despotisme; et, quelle que soit votre décision, je me féliciterai toujours d’avoir eu cette occasion solennelle de la confesser encore une fois devant vous, et, s’il le faut, de souffrir un peu pour elle.’
These concluding words were drowned in universal murmurs.
N. W. Senior.
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